What's behind the 'new world order' announced by the western powers? What is the historic significance of the Gulf war? What stage has the world economic crisis reached? What are the perspectives for the class struggle? What should be the main themes in the intervention of revolutionaries?
These are the questions examined in this resolution adopted by the ICC in January 1991.
The phenomenon of the acceleration of history, which was pointed out by the ICC at the beginning of the 80s, has accentuated considerably in the last year and a half. In a few months, the whole configuration of the world established at the end of the Second World War was turned upside down. The collapse of the eastern imperialist bloc at the end of the 80s announced and opened the door to an end-of-the-millennium dominated by a greater instability and chaos than humanity has ever known.
1) The most immediately significant and dangerous expression of what is not a 'new order' but a new world chaos is at the level of imperialist antagonisms. The war in the Gulf has highlighted the reality of a phenomenon which flowed inevitably from the disappearance of the eastern bloc: the disintegration of its imperialist rival,' the western bloc. This phenomenon was already at the origins of Iraq's 'hold up' in Kuwait: it was because the world had ceased to be divided up into two imperialist constellations that a country like Iraq believed it possible to lay its hands on a former ally of the same bloc. This phenomenon was also revealed in an obvious manner during October in the various attempts of the European countries (notably France and Germany) and Japan to undermine US policy in the Gulf through separate negotiations in the name of freeing the hostages. The USA's aim is to make the punishment of Iraq an 'example' which will discourage any future temptations to imitate the behavior of this country (and indeed to obtain this 'example' the USA did all it could prior to 2 August to provoke and facilitate the Iraqi adventure). It is targeted at the countries of the periphery, where the convulsions are so far advanced that they are permanently pushed towards adventures of this kind. But it is not limited to this aim. In fact its fundamental goal is much more general: faced with a world that is more and more falling into chaos and 'every man for himself', what's required is to impose a minimum of order and discipline, above all on the most important countries of the former western bloc. It is for this very reason that these countries (with the exception of Britain which long ago chose to .make an unbreakable alliance with the USA) have more than dragged their feet in aligning themselves with the US position and associating themselves with its war effort. While they need American power to police the world, they are concerned that too great a display of this power, which is inevitable in a direct armed intervention, will overshadow their own positions.
2) In fact the Gulf war reveals in a particularly significant way what's at stake in the new period at the level of imperialist rivalries. No longer is the world dominated by two superpowers, and imperialist antagonisms are no longer subjected to the fundamental antagonism between them. But at the same time, and as the ICC said over a year ago, such a situation, far from putting an end to imperialist confrontations, has meant that these confrontations are being unleashed more sharply than ever, in the absence of the discipline of the blocs. In this sense, imperialism and the barbarism of war, which are essential characteristics of the period of the decadence of capitalism, can only be further aggravated in the phase that we are now going through, that of the general decomposition of capitalist society. In a world dominated by chaotic wars, by the 'law of the jungle', it's up to the only superpower left - because it has the most to lose in this world disorder, and because it is the only one that has the means - to play he role of the gendarme of capitalism. And it will only be able to play this role by increasingly imprisoning the world in the iron corset of militarism. In such a situation, for a long time to come, and perhaps until the end of capitalism, the conditions don't exist for a new division of the planet into two imperialist blocs. There may be temporary and circumstantial alliances around or against the USA, but in the absence of another military superpower capable of rivaling the US (and the latter will do all it can to prevent such a power arising), the world will be ravaged by all kinds of military confrontations, which even if they are not able to lead up to a third world war, threaten to bring about the most terrible devastation, up to and including, in combination with other calamities typical of the period of decomposition (pollution, famines, epidemics), the destruction of humanity.
3) Another immediate consequence of the collapse of the eastern bloc is the considerable aggravation of the situation that caused it in the first place: economic and political chaos in the countries of Eastern Europe, and above all in the country which was their leader two years ago, the USSR. In fact this country has right now ceased to exist as a state entity: the considerable reduction in Russia's participation in the budget of the 'Union', decided by parliament on 27/12, simply confirmed the irreversible break-up and dislocation of the USSR. A dislocation that the probable reaction of the 'conservative' forces, and particularly the organs of security (as illustrated by Shevarnadze's resignation) can only delay for short time, while at the same time provoking even more chaos and bloodbaths.
Concerning the former 'peoples' democracies', their situation, while not reaching the same level of gravity as that of the USSR, can also only sink into growing chaos as can be seen right now from the catastrophic production figures (which have fallen by 40% in certain countries) and the political instability which has developed in the last few months in countries like Bulgaria, Rumania, Poland (presidential elections) and Yugoslavia (Slovenia's declaration of independence).
4) The crisis of capitalism, which in the last instance is behind all the convulsions the world is now going through, is itself being aggravated by these convulsions:
- the war in the Middle East and the resulting growth in military expenditure can only have a negative effect on the world economic situation (in contrast to the Vietnam war, for example, which made it possible to delay the American and world economy from entering into recession at the beginning of the 60s), owing to the fact that for a long time now the war economy has been one of the main factors aggravating the crisis;
- the dislocation of the western bloc can only deliver a mortal blow to the coordination of economic policy at the level of the bloc, which in the past made it possible to slow down the rhythm of the collapse of the capitalist economy. The perspective is one of a ruthless trade war (as illustrated by the recent failure of the GATT talks) in which all countries will be mauled;
- the convulsions in the zone of the former eastern bloc will also help to aggravate the world crisis by widening the scope of global chaos and, in particular, by forcing the western countries to devote considerable funds to the attempt to limit this chaos (for example by sending 'humanitarian aid' aimed at slowing down the massive emigrations into the west).
5) This said, it is important that revolutionaries show the ultimate factors behind the aggravation of the crisis:
- the generalized overproduction of a system that can't create outlets for the totality 'of commodities produced, as clearly illustrated by the new open recession which is already hitting the premier world power;
- the frenzied flight into external and internal, public and private debt by this same power all through the 80s; this may have made it possible for production to pick up momentarily in a certain number of countries, but it made the USA into easily the world's number one debtor;
- the impossibility of continuing this policy indefinitely, of buying without paying, of selling against promises which more and more obviously will never be repaid; a policy which has simply made the contradictions all the more explosive.
The demonstration of this reality is all the more important to the extent that it is a primary factor in the development of consciousness in the proletariat in the face of the current ideological campaigns. As in 1974 (when it was the 'greedy oil sheikhs') and 1980-82 (when it was the 'mad Khomeini '), the bourgeoisie will try once again (and has already done so) to blame the present open recession on a 'baddy'. Today Saddam Hussein, the 'bloody and megalomaniac dictator', the 'new Hitler' of our time, is ideal for this role. It is thus vital that revolutionaries make it very clear that the present recession, no more than the ones in 74-75 and 80-82, is not the result of a mere oil price rise, but that it began well before the Gulf crisis and that it reveals the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production.
6) More generally, it is important that revolutionaries draw out of the present situation the elements most likely to facilitate the development of class consciousness.
Today, the development of consciousness is still being held back by the effects of the collapse of Stalinism and the eastern bloc. The way that the very ideas of socialism and revolution were cast into discredit last year, especially under the impact of a gigantic campaign of lies, is something that has still not been overcome. In addition, the impending massive arrival of emigrants from an eastern Europe that has fallen into chaos cannot fail to create further disarray in the working class on both sides of the old iron curtain: among the workers who imagine that they can escape from unbearable misery by exiling themselves to the western Eldorado, and among those who will have the feeling that this immigration will rob them of the meager 'gains' that they still have. This will make the latter more vulnerable to nationalist mystifications. Such a danger is particularly acute in countries like Germany which will be in the front line of any such flood of immigrants.
However, the increasingly obvious bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production, including and above all in its 'liberal' form, the growing revelation of the warmongering nature of the system, will play a powerful role in wearing out the illusions that were engendered by the events of late 1989. In particular, the promise of a 'new world order' following the disappearance of the Russian bloc has suffered a decisive blow in less than a year.
In fact, the warmongering barbarity that will more and more be a feature of capitalism in decomposition will increasingly stamp itself on the whole process through which the proletariat becomes conscious of what's at stake in its struggle. War does not constitute in itself and automatically a factor in the clarification of the proletariat's consciousness. Thus, the second world war led to a strengthening of the ideological grip of the counter-revolution. Similarly, although the sound of marching boots which has been heard since last summer has had the merit of refuting all the speeches about the new era of peace, it has also given rise, initially, to a feeling of powerlessness, an undeniable paralysis in the' great mass of the working class in the advanced countries. But the present conditions for the development of the class struggle will not allow this disarray to last for long:
- because the proletariat today, unlike in the 30s and 40s, has come out of the counter-revolution; its decisive sectors are not dragooned behind bourgeois flags such as nationalism, defense of the 'socialist fatherland', or of democracy against fascism;
- because the working class of the central countries is not directly mobilized for the war, it's not gagged by being enrolled under a military authority; this gives it much more latitude to engage in a thorough-going reflection about the barbarism of war, whose effects it will be the first to suffer through increasing austerity and poverty;
- because the profound and increasingly overt aggravation of the crisis of capitalism, of which the workers will evidently be the main victims and against which they will be forced to develop their class militancy, will more and more lead them to make the link between the capitalist crisis and war, between the struggle against the latter and the resistance against economic attacks, which will enable them to protect themselves against the traps of pacifism and inter-classist ideologies.
In reality, while the disarray provoked by the events in the Gulf may on the surface resemble the one provoked by the collapse of the eastern bloc, it obeys a different dynamic: whereas what came from the east (elimination of the vestiges of Stalinism, nationalist conflicts, immigration, etc) can only, for some time to come, have an essentially negative effect on the consciousness of the proletariat, the more and more permanent presence of war in the life of society will tend to reawaken class consciousness.
7) While despite its temporary disarray, the world proletariat still holds the key to the future in its hands, it is necessary to point out that not all sectors of the class are in the same position to offer humanity a perspective. In particular, the economic and political situation developing in the former eastern bloc countries bears witness to the extreme political weakness of the working class in this part of the world. Having been crushed by the most brutal and pernicious form of the counter-revolution - Stalinism - ; carried away by democratic and trade unionist illusions; torn apart by nationalist conflicts and confrontations between bourgeois cliques, the proletariat of Russia, the Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary etc faces the most extreme difficulties in the development of its class consciousness. The struggles which the workers of these countries will be forced to wage in the face of unprecedented economic attacks will, when they are not directly diverted onto a bourgeois terrain like nationalism, come up against the whole weight of social and political decomposition, which will stifle their ability to serve as a soil for the germination of consciousness. And this will continue to be the case as long as the proletariat of the great capitalist metropoles, and particularly those of Western Europe, is unable to put forward, even at an embryonic level, a general perspective for the struggle.
8) The new stage in the process of the maturation of consciousness in the proletariat, the premises of which are being laid by the present situation of capitalism, is for the moment only at the beginning. On the one hand, the class has to go a long way to shake off the effects of the implosion of Stalinism and the way the bourgeoisie made use of it. On the other hand, even if it won't last as long as the impact of the former, the disarray produced by the campaigns around the Gulf war has yet to be overcome. In making this step, the proletariat will be confronted by the difficulties sown by the general decomposition of society and by the traps set by the forces of the bourgeoisie, especially the trade unions, which will try to channel its militancy into dead-ends, which includes pushing it into premature battles. In this process, revolutionaries will have a growing responsibility:
- in warning against all the dangers represented by decomposition, particularly, it goes without saying, the barbarity of war;
- in denouncing all the bourgeois maneuvers, an essential aspect of which will be the attempt to hide or deform the fundamental link between the struggle against economic attacks and the more general struggle against imperialist war, which will be an increasingly ubiquitous element in the life of society;
- by putting forward, against all the pacifist mystifications, and more generally, against all the bourgeois ideologies which tend to undermine the proletariat's confidence in itself and its future, the only perspective which can counter the aggravation of war: the development and generalization of the class struggle against capitalism as a whole, with the ultimate aim of overthrowing it once and for all.
4th January, 1991
Note (1): Even if they are not completely in control of this aspect (Iraq also has something to say about it), the date chosen by the USA for beginning the conflict is not the result of chance. For the USA, it's important to act quickly before the dislocation of its former bloc has gone even further; but also before the tendency towards the revival of workers' struggles (following the reflux provoked by the collapse of the eastern bloc, and given an impetus by the world recession) could manifest itself too openly, as it had begun to do before the summer of 90.
 Even if they are not completely in control of this aspect (Iraq has something to say about it), the date chosen by the USA for beginning the conflict is not the result of chance. For the USA, it's important to act quickly before the dislocation of its former bloc has gone even further; but also before the tendency towards the revival of workers' struggles (following the reflux provoked by the collapse of the eastern bloc, and given an impetus by the world recession) could manifest itself too openly, as it had begun to do before the summer of 90.