A few weeks before the events in the USSR, the ICC held its ninth International Congress. As the reader will see from the documents presented at this meeting which are published below, the break-up of the USSR, as well as the war in Yugoslavia, which are clear products of the dynamic opened up by the disappearance of the eastern imperialist bloc, did not surprise us and are an illustration of the orientations that we had drawn up at this Congress. They are in fact a confirmation of what we have been saying since the very beginning of the explosion of the eastern bloc, in the summer of 1989: throughout this period, our organization has shown itself capable of analyzing the main tendencies of the new historic situation that was opening up, in particular the perspective of chaos and of the disintegration of the eastern bloc and the USSR.
As the real general assembly of the ICC, the most important expression of its centralized and international character, a congress has to draw up a balance sheet of the work accomplished in the preceding period, and, on this basis, define the perspectives for future activity in line with the analysis of the international situation, particularly with regard to the worldwide balance of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Consequently, this Congress had the essential task of discussing the validity of our analyses (in particular the general analysis about the historic phase of decomposition that capitalism has entered) and of the positions we have taken up in response to the huge historic convulsions that we have been through since the end of 1989:
- the collapse of the Stalinist regimes
- the disappearance of the east-west imperialist configuration that came out of Yalta in 1945
- the Gulf war, which was a product of this situation, and which led to the destruction of Iraq and Kuwait
- the growth of chaos in a number of countries, and particularly in the countries of eastern Europe
- the reflux in the international class struggle.
The new situation: a historic break and a reflux in the class struggle
What balance sheet did the Congress draw about the analyses and positions developed by the ICC - all of them published in the press, and which we shall be referring to - in the face of the gigantic events we have been living through? As the resolution on activities that we adopted put it:
"The events of historic significance which have marked out the last two years have put the organization to the test, obliging it to re-examine the whole of its analyses and activity in the light of the conditions of the international situation ...
"The central criterion for evaluating the ICC's activity over the last two years is, necessarily, given the importance of events, its ability to understand and analyze the significance and implications of the latter."
What do these events signify? What do they imply? This is what the Congress had to return to and take a position on.
The historic phase of capitalist decomposition is at the root of the disappearance of the eastern bloc and the USSR
In the dramatic and catastrophic conditions of the open, irreversible crisis of capitalism, the bourgeoisie has been incapable of imposing on the world proletariat the only perspective that it could offer humanity: a devastating third world war. But at the same time, the proletariat has itself been unable to outline or present its own revolutionary perspective, the destruction of capitalist society. Given this lack of any historical perspective, capitalist society - whose economic crisis has not stopped - is in an impasse and is rotting on its feet like an overripe fruit. This is what we call the new historic phase of the decomposition of capitalism (see 'Decomposition, Final Phase of the Decadence of Capitalism', in International Review 62, third quarter, 1990).
This phase of decomposition, of historic impasse and blockage, is at the root of the collapse of the eastern bloc and the USSR and of the death of Stalinism, as we were able to see as early as October 1989:
"Already the eastern bloc is in a state of profound dislocation. For example, the invective traded between East Germany and Hungary, between 'reformist' and 'conservative' governments, is not just a sham. It reveals real splits which are building up between different national bourgeoisies. In this zone, the centrifugal tendencies are so strong that they go out of control as soon as they have the opportunity. And today, this is being fed by fears from within the parties led by the ‘conservatives' that the movement which started in the USSR, and grew in Poland and Hungary, should contaminate and destabilizes them.
"We find a similar phenomenon in the peripheral republics of the USSR. These regions are more or less colonies of Tsarist or even Stalinist Russia (eg the Baltic countries annexed under the 1939 Germano-Soviet pact). ... The nationalist movements which today are profiting from a loosening of central control by the Russian party are developing more than half a century late relative to the movements which hit the British and French empires; their dynamic is towards separation from Russia.
"In the end, if the central power in Moscow does not react, then we will see the explosion, not just of the Russian bloc, but of its dominant power. The Russian bourgeoisie, which today rules the world's second power, would find itself at the head of a second-rate power, a good deal weaker than Germany for example." ('Theses on the Economic and Political Crisis in the Eastern Countries', adopted in October 1989, IR 60, first quarter 1990).
The decomposition of capitalism further aggravates
imperialist antagonisms, wars and militarism
The effects of this historic phase, in this case the explosion of the eastern bloc and the USSR, in their turn accentuate and reinforce the decomposition of society. This phase is marked by the exacerbation of all the characteristics of decadent capitalism, in particular war, imperialism and militarism (as we showed in the text 'Militarism and Decomposition' in October 1990, IR 62), and state capitalism, all this in a context of growing chaos. This is what we wrote just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the world bourgeoisie was singing loudly about the virtues of capitalism and claiming that it could offer humanity an era of peace and prosperity...and announcing its victory over marxism:
"Does this disappearance of the eastern bloc mean that capitalism will no longer be subjected to imperialist confrontations? Such a hypothesis would be entirely foreign to marxism...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 [Note: by this we meant the disappearance of the western bloc following the death of its eastern rival] 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 that the proletariat were 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, especially of course in those areas where the proletariat is weakest". ('After the Collapse of the Eastern bloc, Decomposition and Chaos', IR 61, second quarter 1990).
This is exactly what was to happen in the most bloody manner a few months later, with the war in the Gulf.
The collapse of the eastern bloc: a historic break in the world situation
The disappearance of the eastern imperialist bloc, the death agony of Stalinist state capitalism, the imperialist war in the Gulf, marks a clear break in the evolution of history. In particular for the class struggle of the world proletariat.
The end of the 1960s had opened up a period of slow, non-linear, but real development of workers' struggles throughout the world in response to the attacks resulting from the inexorable aggravation of the economic crisis: 1968-75 (France, Italy, Poland, etc); Poland 1980; the struggles of 1983-88 in Western Europe. This relative strength, this resistance by the world working class, by preventing the different national bourgeoisies from mobilizing the proletariat behind them, is at the origins of the historic blockage which has seen the phenomenon of decomposition become a determining factor in the life of capitalism. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes, which has to be understood in the framework of decomposition, was to lead to a profound reflux in the consciousness of the working class (see IR 60, 'New Difficulties for the Proletariat', and thesis 22 of the 'Theses on the Economic and Political Crisis in the Eastern Countries', already cited). It was still weighing on the working class when the Gulf war came in its turn to influence the balance of forces between the classes:
"Today, this development of consciousness continues to be hampered by the after-effects of the collapse of Stalinism and the eastern bloc. The discredit suffered, for over a year and a half, under the effect of a huge campaign of lies, by the very idea of socialism and the proletarian revolution, is still far from having been overcome ... Likewise the crisis and war in the Gulf, while they've had the merit of silencing all the prattle about 'eternal peace', have also engendered in the first instance a feeling of impotence and an indisputable paralysis in the broad mass of workers in the advanced countries," ('Resolution on the International Situation', adopted by the Congress and published in this IR).
And it's hardly necessary to point out that, since the Congress, the failure of the 'conservative' coup in the USSR in August, the death of the Stalinist CP in the USSR, the break-up of the USSR itself, have provided the world bourgeoisie with an opportunity to relaunch its campaign against the working class about the 'death of communism', using and abusing the greatest lie in all history, the identification between Stalinist state capitalism and communism. No doubt this campaign will prolong a little longer the negative effects that the nauseating putrefaction of Stalinism is having on the proletariat. The world proletariat will have paid very dearly indeed for the Stalinist counter-revolution, in its flesh and its mind.
The 9th Congress of the ICC declared itself in agreement with this analysis and with the various positions taken up in reponse to the events. It thus drew up a positive balance sheet of its activities at the level of the theoretical analysis of the international situation, and of the positions this analysis led it to take up.
Balance sheet of activities
This historic break, the events we have been through since the collapse of the eastern bloc, and the reflux in the class struggle, have demanded an adaptation of our general intervention. From this point of view as well, the Congress drew a positive balance sheet. In all our interventions we have been able to take up a militant position in response to the main questions posed by the present situation, in particular through: the uncovering of the new historic phase of decomposition and of the gravity of what's at stake; the explanation of the historic and particular causes of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes; the denunciation of the bourgeoisie's campaigns, in particular the identification between the Russian revolution and Stalinist barbarism, between communism and Stalinist state capitalism; the denunciation of the murderous and cynical barbarism of the bourgeoisie, of its system and of 'democracy' during the Gulf war, and so on.
At the same time, with the reflux in the struggle and the circumstances in which it took place, "the aspect of propaganda has been uppermost in our intervention, with the press as the main instrument for this ... The territorial publications were on the whole able to respond to the eruption of major events, by advancing the date of their appearance, and by bringing out supplements when necessary" (Resolution on Activities). The ICC, as a unified and centralized whole, distributed an international supplement to its publications at the time of the collapse of the eastern bloc, and two international leaflets in the 12 countries where it is present, and anywhere else it was able to intervene, denouncing the imperialist conflict in the Gulf both at the beginning and the end.
At the level of its organizational life, the ICC has been able to reinforce its international links and centralization, thereby following the orientations adopted at the previous International Congress. The mobilization of the organization, of all its militants, and the strengthening of the links between all its parts and territorial sections, were an essential means for the organization to face up to the demands of the present situation.
While the Congress drew a positive balance sheet of our activities, this didn't mean that we have not shown any weaknesses, notably through delays in the various territorial presses, in particular in our response to the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. These weaknesses were basically a result of the real difficulty there has been in grasping the full breadth of the historic break that has taken place; in putting into question the framework of analyses that corresponded to the period preceding the disappearance of the eastern bloc; in rapidly seeing and understanding the collapse of the bloc; in grasping the negative repercussions that the downfall of Stalinism would have for the working class; in recognizing the reflux in the class struggle.
Facing up to the dramatic acceleration of history
History is accelerating dramatically. There's no point in going back over all the events and over the most recent of them, which is taking place at the time of writing: the end of the USSR. You only have to read the papers and watch the TV. The decomposition of capitalist society is the cause of this acceleration. It affects the whole of society, all classes, including the proletariat. The characteristics of the phenomenon of decomposition are such that they exert on the working class and on revolutionary organizations - the ICC included - a particular weight of petty bourgeois ideology which undermines confidence and conviction in the historic strength of the proletariat and in the role of revolutionary political organizations.
The pressure of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology in full decay, and the resulting flight into the most reactionary illusions, such as nationalism, corporatism and even racism; the fact that huge numbers of workers are being thrown into unemployment, with no perspective of finding any other work, or, in the case of the young, of finding any work in the first place, with all the lumpenisation, marginalization and despair that follows (drug addiction, crime, prostitution...): these and many others are dangers that threaten the world proletariat more and more violently, more and more massively. They hinder the development of its consciousness, of its confidence in its revolutionary strength. This situation is developing in a terribly wide-scale manner in the countries of the former eastern bloc. The disorientation, blindness and despair hitting the broad mass of workers in these countries is particularly dramatic. And there's no doubt that the explosion of the USSR, the independence of the republics and the resulting nationalism - all the illusions in democracy and the 'prosperity' of the western countries - will further reinforce the disarray and impotence of the proletariat in this part of the world.
The same kinds of dangers weigh on communist militants and their political organizations. Doubts, skepticism, demoralization, lack of confidence in the working class, go hand in hand with the temptation to take flight into 'private life', into individualism, with the bitter and cynical denigration of any collective and organized militant activity, or the rejection of thought and theory.
Similarly at the collective level, at the level of the functioning of the revolutionary organisation, dilettantism, localism, attitudes of laxity and of 'every man for himself' are also dangers which are a much greater threat to the functioning of communist political organizations than they were in the past.
This pressure also operates at the theoretical-political level. The absence of historical perspective which results from this unprecedented situation of decomposition also manifests itself in a lack of rigorous thought, in a loss of method, in a tendency to mix up categories, in an immediatist, a-historical vision. For communist organizations, this pressure expresses itself in a growing tendency towards immediate and superficial approaches to events, a day-to-day, immediatist approach which fails to understand or even to try to see the unity of the historical process as a whole.
A lack of rigorous thinking, a lack of interest in theory - characteristics which affect the whole of capitalist society and which are in fact getting stronger all the time - manifest themselves through the pressure to give up reading theoretical and historical works, to ignore or forget the 'classics' of marxism and the history of the workers' movement and of capitalist society.
This pressure is also illustrated - we can see it in a number of revolutionary groups - by the tendency to call into question the theoretical and political acquisitions of the workers' movement, and even - whether openly or not - by the rejection of marxism.
It was for this reason that the 9th Congress called upon all parts of the organization, on all its militants, to strengthen the international centralization of the ICC, to be extremely vigilant about matters of organisation and militant life, but also to involve ourselves with all our strength in theoretical reflection and deepening and in the elaboration of our analyses. These are indispensable conditions for being able to make the most effective intervention in the working class.
Intervention in the coming period
In this situation of the growing pressure of decomposition on the proletariat and revolutionaries, of a terrible acceleration of history, the 9th Congress of the ICC drew out the perspectives for its general activities, in particular the perspectives for intervention towards the working class and the proletarian political milieu.
Obviously, the disappearance of the USSR and the disgusting campaign of the bourgeoisie against communism are going to prolong the effects of the reflux that the proletariat has suffered for over two years now. It will also reinforce the necessity for us to strengthen our denunciation of the lie that Stalinism is the same as communism. Since it corresponded to our framework of analysis, this event didn't surprise us and has confirmed the orientations for our intervention as defined by the 9th Congress:
"Our intervention must confront both the need to help the working class overcome the ever-present aftermath of the retreat in consciousness that followed the collapse of the eastern bloc, and the need to facilitate the decantation of consciousness brought about by the Gulf war, which can only be deepened by the fact that the threat of war is more and more present. This is why the main axis of our intervention is to contribute as much as possible to the deepening of consciousness, through the general denunciation of the bourgeoisie and its system, and by highlighting what are the stakes in the new historic situation, linked to the general perspective for the class struggle. Because of this, the question of war must remain a central axis of our intervention" (Resolution on Activities).
The working class is going to have to struggle in a situation dominated by the development of chaos, wars and economic crisis. And this is also the context in which we will have to develop our activity and our intervention:
"The general chaos which characterizes the final phase of capitalist decadence, the phase of decomposition, can only be marked by an unleashing of the dominant characteristic of the period of decadence: imperialist conflicts and militarism" (Resolution on the International Situation).
The imperialist wars that are going to break out, even if they don't take the form of a world war between two blocs - at least not for the moment - will be no less murderous. They will give rise to the most awful ravages, and, combined with the other effects of decomposition - pollution, famines, epidemics - they could very well lead to the destruction of humanity. Sharpened more and more by the blows of the economic crisis, imperialist antagonisms between the former allies of the ex-western bloc will spark off and fuel the numerous fires of war that will break out in the phase of decomposition.
This perspective of a multiplication of bloody imperialist conflicts, of a catastrophic development of the effects of decomposition - especially in the countries of Eastern Europe - cannot fail to have consequences for the working class. As we have said, the working class is going through a reflux in its consciousness and its combativity. But as a world class it is not defeated and the historic course still points towards decisive class confrontations. In particular, and this is a crucial point, the experienced and concentrated working class of western Europe has not been mobilized behind the banners of the bourgeoisie.
"In reality, if the disarray provoked by the events of the Gulf may resemble, on the surface, that resulting from the collapse of the eastern bloc, it obeys a different dynamic: while what came from the east (elimination of the remains of Stalinism, nationalist confrontations, immigration, etc) can only, and for a good while yet, have an essentially negative effect on the consciousness of the proletariat, the more and more permanent presence of war in the life of society is tending, by contrast, to reawaken this consciousness...
"The growing evidence of the irreversible bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production, including and above all its 'liberal' form, the irremediable militarism of this system, will constitute, for the central sectors of the proletariat, a powerful factor in the exhaustion of illusions coming from the events at the end of 1989," (ibid).
The barbarity of war and the multiplication of economic attacks will push the proletariat to return to the path of struggle, and to develop its awareness of the terrible historical stakes being played for. The aim of the 9th Congress was to prepare the ICC for this perspective.
Appeal to the proletarian political milieu
It is in this increasingly dramatic world historic situation that the 9th Congress addressed an 'Appeal to the proletarian political milieu' (published in this issue). Despite the important difficulties of the proletarian milieu, the ICC must participate and work towards the political clarification and unification of what constitutes the political avant-garde of the proletariat. Since its foundation, our organisation has always put this task at the heart of its preoccupations.
"The ICC, because of the importance of its place in this milieu, possesses a primary responsibility ... to use every occasion to help overcome the present situation of dispersion and sectarianism. The Gulf war, which gave rise to a clear internationalist position by revolutionary groups, but in a very dispersed way, and to a lesser extent the collapse of the eastern bloc, whose capitalist nature was affirmed by the groups, albeit in an insufficient and confused framework, provides such an occasion ...
"The 9th Congress of the ICC has decided to address the groups whose existence has a real historic basis, to the exclusion of parasitic groups, with an appeal putting forward the necessity:
- to take heed of the importance of the present historical stakes and the class positions shared by these groups
- to fight attitudes marked by sectarianism
- to work towards a development of contacts and open debate through the press ... through taking part in public and open meetings of groups in the milieu, and eventually through common interventions (leaflets for example) on particularly important occasions," (Resolution on the Proletarian Political Milieu).
The 9th Congress, a moment in the homogenization and strengthening of the ICC
We draw a positive balance sheet of this Congress. It was a moment in the homogenization and strengthening of the ICC. After the overturning of the capitalist order which emerged from the second world war, it has been necessary to 'digest' this historical rupture, to verify our analyses and regroup behind our perspectives, in order to be able to confront the intense period to come.
History continues to accelerate. Dramatic events follow each other at a breakneck pace. The immense majority of the world population lives in extreme misery under the deadly menace of wars, disease, famine and catastrophes of all kinds.
The world proletariat faces redoubled economic attacks in a growing atmosphere of decomposition and war. Even if today it is suffering from a reflux in its consciousness and also in its combativity, it is the only force capable of getting rid of the cesspool that capitalism in decay has become. Inevitably, under the blows of capital, it's going to have to engage in a fight to the death with the world bourgeoisie. The stakes of this gigantic confrontation? The destruction of capitalism, the creation of a communist society, the survival of humanity.
9th Congress of the ICC
Imperialist war, crisis and the perspectives for the class struggle in the decomposition of capitalism
We are publishing below the Resolution on the International Situation adopted by the 9th Congress. This text is the synthesis of the two reports presented at this Congress - on the economic situation and the other aspects of the international situation. In order to make more precise and explicit certain points in the Resolution, we reproduce after it extracts from the second report. Owing to lack of space, the passages retained are not always in continuity and fall short of dealing with all the elements covered either by the report or in the discussions at the Congress. At the same time, these passages don't always concern the most important points in the international situation, which have already been amply discussed in other articles from the International Review. Rather we have given priority to the questions that the report deals with more explicitly than these articles.
Resolution on the international situation
The acceleration of history, already identified by the ICC at the beginning of the 1980s, has considerably accentuated since the last congress. Never, since the constitution of our organization, and even since the Second World War, have events of such historic importance unfolded - and in less than two years. In a few months the configuration of the world since the Second World War has been overthrown. In fact, the collapse of the imperialist bloc of the east, which closed the eighties, opens the door to an end-of-the- millennium dominated by an instability and chaos that humanity has never known before. It's up to revolutionaries, if they want to be at the level of their role as the avant-garde of the world proletariat, to fully understand the significance of the convulsions opening up, in order to draw out the resulting perspective for the whole of society and, in the first place, for the working class. In particular, it's up to them to show that the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Gulf War are the signs of the entry of the capitalist system into the final phase of its period of decadence: that of the general decomposition of society.
1) As shown in several other texts of the organization, the phase of decomposition:
- "constitutes the final point of convergence for all the fantastic convulsions which have shaken society and the different classes within it since the beginning of the century, in an infernal cycle of crisis-war-reconstruction-new crisis (...); it appears [to the extent that the contradictions and manifestations of the decadence of capitalism...haven't disappeared with time, but have continued and even deepened] as the result of the accumulation of all the characteristics of a moribund system, completing the 75-year death agony of a historically condemned mode of production. Concretely, not only do the imperialist nature of all states, the menace of the world war, the absorption of civil society by the state Moloch, and the permanent crisis of the capitalist economy all continue in the phase of decomposition, but they reach a synthesis and an ultimate conclusion within it."
- "is fundamentally determined by unforeseen and unprecedented historic conditions: the situation of momentary impasse of society, of 'blockage', as a result of the mutual 'neutralization' of its two fundamental classes which prevents either of them from making a decisive response to the open crisis of the capitalist economy...; the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to offer the least perspective for the whole of society and the incapacity of the proletariat to openly affirm itself at the present time." ('Decomposition, Final Phase of the Decadence of Capitalism', International Review 62)
This incapacity of the capitalist mode of production to offer the least perspective to society, outside of a day-to-day resistance to the inevitable advance of its economic convulsions, leads necessarily to the growing tendencies toward generalized chaos, toward a headlong flight of the different components of the social body to "each for himself".
Besides, this phase of decomposition didn't begin with its most spectacular manifestation: the collapse of Stalinism and the Eastern Bloc in the second half of l989. Throughout the eighties the phenomenon of the general decomposition of society bloomed and impregnated in a growing way all the aspects of social life.
2) An event as considerable and unforeseen as the collapse of a whole imperialist bloc outside of a world war or proletarian revolution, such as one saw in l989, cannot be explained fully without taking into consideration the entrance of decadent capitalism into a new phase of its existence: the phase of decomposition. However, the particularities of decomposition alone do not permit an understanding of such an event. The latter finds its origins in the existence of a phenomenon, Stalinism, which can only be analyzed within the general framework of the decadence of the capitalist mode of production and the history of this decadence throughout the 20th Century:
a) Stalinism constitutes a particular manifestation of the general tendency of state capitalism, which is precisely a characteristic of decadent capitalism.
b) However, contrary to the manifestations of this tendency in the majority of other countries (particularly the most advanced), it does not develop in a progressive and organic way within the bowels of capitalist society, but results from specific and 'accidental' circumstances (from the point of view of the bourgeoisie) but which could only be produced in decadence: the temporarily victorious proletarian revolution in a country where the counter revolution was taken in hand by the apparatus of the post-revolutionary state and not by the classical sectors of the dominant class.
c) This same 'accidental' character is found in the constitution of the bloc led by the state which saw the birth of Stalinism. In effect, it's the specific circumstances of the second World War (the most salient manifestation to this day of capitalist decadence) which allowed this backward state to establish its domination over a part of the world with the sole instrument of the same brute force which it utilized within its frontiers. It led to the formation of a particularly rickety imperialist bloc.
The aberrant characteristics of the Stalinist form of state capitalism (total centralization of the economy, absence of the market sanction, elimination of unprofitable enterprises, selection of personnel to manage the national capital on uniquely political criteria), linked to its historical origins, was compatible with the circumstances of world war. But, in revenge, they imposed radical limits on this type of regime with the prolongation of the open crisis of capitalism, when the latter didn't end up in a new generalized holocaust. With the aggravation of the commercial war between nations, these characteristics, in depriving the Stalinist economy of all competivity and of any motivation by its agents, could only end up in its implosion.
In this sense, the economic collapse of the USSR and its 'satellites', which is at the origin of the dislocation of the eastern bloc, finds its roots in the same historic conditions which permitted the entry of capitalism into its phase of decomposition: the prolongation of the open crisis to which neither of the two fundamental classes of society could affirm their own perspective. Thus, it confirms that the collapse of the eastern bloc, the most important historical fact since the worldwide resurgence of the class struggle at the end of the 60s, is a clear manifestation, beyond the particularities of this bloc and the USSR, of the entry of decadent capitalism into its final stage, that of its decomposition.
3) If there's a domain where the tendency to growing chaos is immediately confirmed, of which the break-up of the eastern bloc constitutes the first great manifestation on the world scene, it's that of imperialist antagonisms.
The end of the Russian bloc was presented by the western bourgeoisie as the dawn of a 'new world order' supposed to promote peace and prosperity. In less than a year, the Gulf War has dealt a resounding blow to this lie. It has shown the reality of a phenomenon which, as the ICC immediately brought to light, would necessarily flow from the disappearance of the eastern bloc: the dissolution of its imperialist rival, the western bloc.
This phenomenon was already behind the Iraqi 'hold-up' of Kuwait in August 90. It's because the world had ceased to be carved up by two imperialist constellations that a country like Iraq thought it possible to grab an ex-ally of the same bloc. This same phenomenon was revealed in a clear way during October 90, with the diverse attempts of European countries (notably France and Germany) and of Japan to torpedo American policy in the Gulf, through separate negotiations led in the name of the liberation of hostages. This American policy was to punish Iraq and was supposed to discourage all future attempts to imitate the behavior of this country (and it was to create the conditions for this example that the US did everything, before the 2 August, to provoke and encourage Iraq's adventure).
Washington's policy applies to the countries of the periphery where the level of convulsions are a powerful factor giving rise to this type of adventure. But it is far from limited to this objective. In reality, its fundamental aim was much more general: faced with a world more and more dominated by chaos and 'each for himself', it was a question of imposing a minimum of order and discipline, in the first place, on the most important countries of the western ex-bloc. It's for this reason that these countries (with the exception of Great Britain which chose long ago to make an unbreakable alliance with Uncle Sam) did more than simply drag their feet in aligning with the position of the US and the war effort.
If they needed American power as the world cop, they dreaded a too important show of its power, (inevitable during a direct armed intervention), which would put their own power in the shade. And indeed the military operations at the beginning of the year have clearly shown that only one superpower exists today - other countries can only dream of becoming effective military rivals of the US.
4) In fact, here is the essential key to the Gulf War and the whole world perspective. In a world where the total economic impasse of the capitalist mode of production can only fan the flames of military conflict between nations, the disappearance of the two blocs coming out of the Second World War has put on the agenda the tendency to the reconstitution of two new military blocs. The latter is the classical structure given to the principal states, in the period of decadence, to 'organize' their armed confrontations. Even before the Gulf War, it was clear that neither of the two possible pretenders to the leadership of an eventual new rival bloc to one which would be directed by the US - Japan and above all Germany - was for the moment capable of fulfilling such a role as a result of its extreme military weakness. But taking account of the economic power and dynamism of these countries, which already make them formidable commercial competitors for the United States, it is important for Washington to take the initiative faced with any evolution of international relations that could orientate toward such a redistribution of imperialist forces. That's why the Gulf War could not be reduced to a 'war for oil' or a 'North-South' war. Such a vision, (notably defended by the leftists who used it to justify their support for Iraqi imperialism) only lessens its importance and significance. In the same way all the manifestations of decadent capitalism (militarism, state capitalism, open crisis, etc), all the fundamental antagonisms which are ripping the world apart, find their origin at the heart of capitalism and necessarily set the most important powers on the world scene against each other.
From this point of view, the Gulf War, imposed by the United States on its allies, has delivered the intended results: it has given glaring proof of the immense gap between America and its potential rivals. Notably, it has brought out the total incapacity of the European countries to put forward a common, independent, external policy which in time could have politically prefigured a 'European bloc' led by Germany.
5) However, this immediate success of American policy is not a durable factor stabilizing the world situation to the extent that it could arrest the very causes of the chaos into which society is sinking. If the other powers have had to reign in their ambitions, their basic antagonism with the United States has not disappeared: that's what is shown by the latent hostility that countries like France and Germany express vis-a-vis the American projects for the re-utilization of the structures of NATO in the framework of a 'rapid reaction force' commanded, as if by chance, by the only reliable ally of the US: Great Britain.
Besides, in the Middle East itself, the consequences of the Gulf War (chaos in 'free' Kuwait, revolts of the Kurds and Shiites) have shown that the means employed by the US to impose its 'new world order' are factors in the aggravation of disorder. In this sense, capitalism has no perspective of moderating, still less eliminating, military confrontations. On the contrary, the general chaos which characterizes the final phase of capitalist decadence, that of decomposition, can only be marked by an unleashing of the dominant characteristic of the period of decadence: imperialist conflicts and militarism.
In this situation, contrary to the past, (and here is a major indicator of the qualitative step taken by capitalism in putrefaction) it will no longer be those powers with the smallest share of the imperialist booty which will play the role of 'firelighter', but the power which retains the dominant position, the United States. The preservation by the US of this position will necessarily lead it to increasingly watch out for, and take the initiative in, military confrontations, since it's on this terrain in particular where it can affirm its superiority. In this situation, and even if the conditions for the establishment of a new division of the world into two imperialist blocs - that is, the indispensable premise for military confrontations to end up in a third world war - never exist again, these confrontations, which can only amplify, risk provoking considerable devastation, including, in combination with other calamities specific to decomposition (pollution, famines, epidemics. etc), the destruction of humanity.
6) The end of the 'cold war' and the disappearance of the blocs has thus only exacerbated the unleashing of the imperialist antagonisms specific to decadent capitalism and aggravated in a qualitative new way the bloody chaos into which the whole of society is sinking. But, if it is necessary to underline the extreme gravity of the present situation on the world level, and not just in this or that part of the globe, it is also important to say that these antagonisms don't manifest themselves everywhere in an identical and immediate way. This can be seen in the way the new world configuration unfolded, and in particular in the demise of the eastern bloc and the western bloc. These were not two identical phenomena: in particular, there has not been a parallel process of weakening of each of the two imperialist blocs leading to their simultaneous disappearance. One of the blocs collapsed brutally under the pressure of the total economic bankruptcy of its dominant power while the leader of the other bloc still conserved the core of its capacities. It's the disappearance of the first which has provoked that of the second, not as the result of an internal collapse, but simply because it had lost its essential reason to exist. This difference allows a full comprehension of the present characteristics of imperialist conflicts: like Japan and Germany after the Second World War, the USSR can no longer play a leading role in the world imperialist arena. Henceforth, the fundamental antagonisms will be played out between the 'victors' of the 'cold war'. That's why it's up to the dominant power of the victorious camp to play, for itself, but also for the whole of capitalism, the role of 'world cop'
7) On the other hand, this difference in the process of the disappearance of the two blocs is also mirrored in their internal evolution. Globally, the states of the ex-western bloc are still capable of controlling the political and even economic situation inside their frontiers. But it's by no means the same for the states of the ex-eastern bloc or other Stalinist regimes. From now on, these countries will show in a caricatural way what the phase of decomposition brings - economic chaos will deepen the wounds of rotting capitalism at a stunning pace: massive unemployment provoking the lumpenisation of important sectors of the working class; explosion of drug abuse; criminality, corruption.
The economic and political chaos which is spreading through the countries of the east hits primarily the country that found itself at their head less than two years ago, the USSR. In fact, this country has practically ceased to exist as such since the organs of central power are more and more incapable of exercising control over less and less parts of its territory. The only perspective left for what was the second world power is that of an unrelieved dislocation. A dislocation which the reaction of 'conservative' forces, and particularly the security forces such as those which were mobilized in the Baltic countries and in the Transcaucases, can hold back only a little. In time an even more considerable chaos will be unleashed and with it' bloodbaths.
As for the ex-'people's democracies', while they won't degenerate to the same degree as the USSR, they too can only plunge toward growing chaos as revealed by the catastrophic figures of production (falling 40% in certain countries) and political instability which has manifested itself these last months in practically all the countries of the region (Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania) and particularly in Yugoslavia which is beginning to crack up.
8) The crisis of capitalism which, in the final analysis, is at the origin of all the convulsions of the world at the present time, is itself aggravated by these convulsions:
- the war in the Middle East, the resulting growth of military expenses, the necessary credits for the reconstruction of a part of the destruction (basically a country like Iraq will never overcome the enormous damage suffered during the war) can only affect the economic situation in a negative way (contrary to the Vietnam War which at the end of the l960s delayed the entry of the American and world economy into recession), to the extent that the war economy and generalized indebtedness, have already been primary factors in aggravating the crisis for some time;
- the dislocation of the Western bloc can only give a mortal blow to the coordination of economic policies at the level of the bloc, which in the past could slow the rhythm of the collapse of the capitalist economy. The perspective is a merciless commercial war, in which all countries will lose their feathers;
- the convulsions in the zone of the ex-eastern bloc will increasingly aggravate the world crisis by helping to amplify general chaos. In particular, it will force the western countries to devote important credits to limit this chaos (for example the sending of 'humanitarian aid' designed to delay massive emigration to the west).
9) That said, it's important that revolutionaries put forward what constitutes the ultimate factors aggravating the crisis:
- generalized overproduction specific to a mode of production which cannot create enough outlets to absorb all the commodities produced, and of which the new open recession, today hitting most of the advanced countries, along with the first world power, constitutes a flagrant illustration;
- the unbroken flight into external and internal debt, public and private, of this same power throughout the l980s, which, if it has allowed the momentary relaunching of production in a certain number of countries, has made the United States by far the biggest debtor in the world;
- the impossibility of pursuing this course eternally - buying without paying, selling against promises which more and more evidently will never be kept. It can only make the contradictions still more explosive, notably by a growing weakening of the international financial system.
Underlining this reality is all the more important in that it constitutes a primary factor in the coming to consciousness of the proletariat against the ideological campaigns which have been unleashed these last months, pretending to 'show' that only 'liberal' capitalism can offer prosperity to the population. The causes of economic difficulties are put down to the ambitions of the 'megalomanic and bloody dictator' Saddam Hussein. It is thus indispensable that revolutionaries clearly underline that the present recession, no more than those of l974-75 and l980-82, didn't result from political or military convulsions in the Middle East, but had begun before the Gulf Crisis and that it reveals the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production.
10) More generally, it is important that revolutionaries bring out, from the present reality, the most essential elements favorable to the coming to consciousness of the proletariat.
Today, this coming to consciousness continues to be hindered by the repercussions of Stalinism's collapse and that of the eastern bloc. The set-back this process has suffered for a year and a half, particularly under the weight of a gigantic campaign of lies discrediting the very idea of socialism and proletarian revolution, is still far from having been overcome.
Besides, the threatened massive influx of immigrants from a chaotic eastern Europe can only create additional disarray in the working class from both sides of the 'iron curtain': among the workers imagining that they will be able to escape intolerable misery by fleeing to the western 'Eldorado' and among those who will think that this immigration risks depriving them of the meager 'benefits' which remain and who will therefore be more vulnerable to nationalist mystifications. Such a danger will be particularly strong in countries like Germany, which are on in the front line against a flood of immigrants.
However the growing evidence of the irreversible bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production, including and above all in its 'liberal' form, plus the irremediable militarism of this system, is going to constitute, for the central sectors of the proletariat, a powerful factor in the exhaustion of illusions coming from the events of the end of l989. In particular, the promise of a 'peaceful new world' made to us after the disappearance of the Russian bloc, has suffered a decisive blow in less than a year.
11) In fact, the militarist barbarism into which decomposing capitalism is more and more sinking is going to make its mark in a growing way on the development in the class of the consciousness of the stakes and perspectives of its combat. War is not in itself, and automatically, a factor of clarification of the consciousness of the proletariat. Thus, the Second World War ended with the reinforcement of the ideological grip of the counter-revolution. Likewise, the crisis and war in the Gulf, if they've had the merit of silencing all the prattle about 'eternal peace', have also engendered, in the first instance, a feeling of impotence and an indisputable paralysis in the great masses of workers in the advanced countries. But the present conditions of the development of the struggle of the working class mean such a disarray won't last:
- because the proletariat of today, contrary to that of the 30s and 40s, has emerged from the counter-revolution, and has not been mobilized, at least not in its decisive sectors, behind bourgeois banners (nationalism, defense of the 'socialist fatherland', democracy against fascism);
- because the working class of the central countries is not directly mobilized in the war, or gagged by military authority, it has more latitude to develop a profound reflection on the significance of the militarist barbarism which it has to support through redoubled austerity and poverty;
- because the considerable and more and more evident aggravation of the capitalist crisis, of which the workers will evidently be the principal victims and against which they will be constrained to develop their class combativity, will in a growing way develop the conditions that will allow them to make the link between the capitalist crisis and the war, between the fight against the latter and the struggles of resistance against economic attacks, strengthening their capacity to protect themselves against the traps of pacifism and inter-classist ideologies.
12) In reality, if the disarray provoked by the events in the Gulf may superficially resemble that resulting from the collapse of the eastern bloc, it obeys a different dynamic: while what came from the East (elimination of the remains of Stalinism, nationalist confrontations, immigration, etc) can only for a good while yet have an essentially negative impact on the consciousness of the proletariat, the more and more permanent presence of war in the life of the society is tending, by contrast, to reawaken this consciousness. Likewise, if the collapse of Stalinism has had only a limited impact on the combativity of the working class, already shown by a trend toward the revival of struggles in spring 90, the crisis and the war in the Gulf, through the feeling of impotence that it has created amongst the workers of the principal advanced countries (which were practically all implicated in the 'coalition') have provoked an important ebb of combativity - the longest since the winter of 89-90. However, this pause in the workers combativity, far from constituting in itself an obstacle on the road to the historic development of class combats, is above all a moment of decantation, of profound reflection in the whole of the proletariat.
It's for this reason that the apparatus of the left of the bourgeoisie has already for several months been attempting to launch movements of premature struggle in order to short-circuit this reflection and sow more confusion in the workers ranks
13) If despite a temporary disarray, the world proletariat still holds the keys to the future in its hands, it is important to underline that all its sectors are not at the same level in the capacity to open a perspective for humanity. In particular, the economic and political situation which developed in the countries of the ex-eastern bloc testifies to the extreme political weakness of the working class in this part of the world. Crushed by the most brutal and pernicious form of the counter-revolution, Stalinism; hammered by democratic and trade unionist illusions; ripped apart by nationalist confrontations and conflict between bourgeois cliques, the Russian proletariat, of the Ukraine, of the Baltics, Poland, Hungary, etc, find themselves confronted by the worst difficulties in developing their class consciousness. The struggles undertaken by workers of these countries, faced with unprecedented economic attacks, will collide, when they aren't directly derailed onto a bourgeois terrain such as nationalism (which was partly the case for the miners' strike in the USSR last spring), with developing social and political decomposition, stifling their capacity to germinate consciousness. This will continue as long as the proletariat of the great capitalist metropoles, and particularly those of Western Europe, is not up to putting forward, even in an embryonic way, a general perspective of struggle.
14) In reality, today's considerable difficulties of the workers in the eastern countries caused by rampant social decomposition in this part of the world, reveals the impact that the decomposition of capitalism exercises on the development of the struggle and consciousness of the world proletariat.
The confusion and a-classist illusions that a certain number of aspects of decomposition (such as ecological disasters, 'natural' catastrophes, rise of criminality, etc) provoke within it, through the attack on its self-confidence and its vision of the future through the atmosphere of despair which pervades society, through the obstacle to solidarity and the unification of struggles from the ideology of 'each for himself' which is omnipresent today, the growing decomposition of society, the 'rotting on its feet' of capitalism - all this is fundamentally a supplementary difficulty that confronts the proletariat on the road to its emancipation. But the fact that:
- the proletariat of the central countries of capitalism, which will be at the heart of the decisive battles with the bourgeoisie, will be less affected by the most extreme and brutal forms of decomposition than other sectors of the world proletariat;
- that the proletariat for the most part of the eighties developed its struggles and its consciousness when the effects of decomposition were already felt...
These two elements illustrate that the working class still holds the key to the future. And it's particularly true to the extent that the two major manifestations of the life of capitalism with which it will be confronted, the capitalist mode of production's economic crisis and the imperialist war (which are not typical manifestations of the phase of decomposition, but belong to capitalist decadence), will force it to develop its struggles on its class terrain, become conscious of the bankruptcy of this system and the necessity to overturn it.
15) The new level in the maturation of consciousness in the proletariat, which the present situation of capitalism determines, is for the moment only at its beginnings. In particular, the class must travel a difficult road in order to disengage itself from the sequels to the blow of the implosion of Stalinism and the use made of it by the bourgeoisie. Likewise, it's not in an immediate way that the whole of the proletariat will be up to drawing out from the growing military barbarism the historic perspective of its struggles.
In this process, revolutionaries will have a growing responsibility:
- to warn against all the dangers that decomposition represents, and particularly the unleashing of military barbarism which it brings;
- in the denunciation of all bourgeois maneuvers. One of the essential aspects of the latter will be to disguise or denature, the fundamental link between the struggle against the economic attacks and the more general combat against the greater and greater presence of imperialist war in the life of society;
- in the struggle against the campaigns to sap the self-confidence of the proletariat in itself and in its future;
- in putting forward, against all the pacifist or inter-classist mystifications, and more generally, against the whole ideology of the bourgeoisie, the only perspective which can oppose the aggravation of war: the development and generalization of class combat against capitalism as a whole in order to overthrow it and replace it with a communist society.