Chaos and massacres: Only the working class can find the answer
We are publishing below (starting on page 9) a resolution on the international situation adopted by the ICC in April 1992. Since this document was written, events have amply illustrated the analyses contained in it. Decomposition and chaos, particularly at the level of inter-imperialist antagonisms, have become more and more aggravated, as we can see for example with the massacres in Yugoslavia. At the same time, the world economic crisis has continued on its catastrophic path, creating the conditions for a revival of the class struggle - something the bourgeoisie is actively preparing against.
The collapse of the eastern bloc in the second half of 1989 continues to make its consequences felt. The 'new world order', which according to President Bush was supposed to emerge in its wake, can be seen in reality to be an even more catastrophic disorder than the previous one, a bloody chaos which day after day piles up ruins and corpses, while at the same time the old antagonisms between great powers have given way to new and increasingly explosive ones.
The unleashing of imperialist antagonisms
In decadent capitalism, and particularly when the open economic crisis bears decisive witness to the impasse facing the system, there is no possibility for any attenuation of conflicts between different national bourgeoisies. Since there is no way out for the capitalist economy, since all the policies aimed at overcoming the crisis only make the catastrophe worse, since all the remedies prove to be poisons which aggravate the sickness, there is no alternative for the bourgeoisie, whatever its power and the means at its disposal, other than to rush headlong towards war and preparations for war.
This is why the disappearance in 1989 of one of the two military blocs which had divided up the world since the end of the Second World War has not at all brought about the 'new era of peace' promised us by the sirens of the bourgeoisie. In particular, since the threat of the 'Evil Empire' no longer weighed on them, yesterday's 'allies' - ie the main countries of the western bloc - have begun to flap their wings and put forward their own specific interests against the US 'big brother'. Alliances contracted by the different national bourgeoisies have never been marriages of love but of necessity, marriages of convenience. Just as we can witness spectacular 'reconciliations', in which the reciprocal hatred which the states had for decades inculcated in their respective populations gives way to a 'new-found friendship', so yesterday's allies, 'united for ever by history', by their 'common values', by 'shared trials' and the rest, don't hesitate to convert themselves into bitter enemies as soon as their interests no longer converge. This was the case during and after the second world war, when the USSR was presented by the western 'democracies' first as a henchman of the devil Hitler, then as a 'heroic companion in the struggle', then once again as the incarnation of evil.
Today, even if the basic structures of the American bloc (NATO, OECD, IMF, etc) still formally exist, if the speeches of the bourgeoisie still talk about the unity of the great 'democracies', in fact the Atlantic Alliance is finished. All the events which have unfolded over the last two years have only confirmed this reality: the collapse of the eastern bloc could only result in the disappearance of the military bloc set up to oppose it, and which won the victory in the cold war waged between them for over 40 years. Because of this, not only has the solidarity between the main western countries fallen to pieces, we can already see, in embryonic form, the tendencies towards the formation of a new system of alliances, in which the main antagonism is between the US and its allies on the one hand, and a coalition led by Germany on the other. As the ICC press has shown at length, the Gulf war at the beginning of 1991 had its main origin in the USA's attempt to block the process of the disintegration of the western bloc and to nip in the bud any effort to set up a new system of alliances. The events in Yugoslavia since the summer of 91 have shown that the enormous operation launched by Washington has only had limited effects, and that no sooner was the fighting over in the Gulf than the solidarity between the members of the coalition ceased to apply and all the antagonisms came back to the surface.
The present renewal of confrontations in ex-Yugoslavia, this time in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is, whatever the appearance, confirming this aggravation of tensions between the great powers which used to make up the western bloc.
Massacres and speeches about peace in ex-Yugoslavia: war at the heart of Europe
At the time of writing, war is again raging through ex-Yugoslavia. After months of massacres in different parts of Croatia, and when the situation seems to be easing off in that region, fire and blood is descending on Bosnia-Herzegovina. In two months, the number of dead has already gone past 5,000. There are tens of thousands wounded and hundreds of thousands have been forced to leave the combat zones; the UN mission to Sarajevo, which was supposed to bring a minimum of protection to the population, has also left.
Today, Serbia is being made a 'pariah' among nations as the journalists put it. On 30 May, the UN adopted rigorous measures of embargo against this country, comparable to those imposed on Iraq before the Gulf war, in order to force it, along with the Serbian militias, from laying waste Bosnia-Herzegovina. And it's Uncle Sam which has taken the lead in this big campaign against Serbia, while at the same time proclaiming itself the defender of 'democratic Bosnia'. On 23 May Baker didn't hesitate to evoke the possibility of a military intervention to make Serbia tow the line. And it was under very heavy American pressure that the members of the Security Council who could have had reticences, like France and Russia, finally rallied to a 'hard' motion against Serbia. At the same time, the USA hasn't missed an opportunity to make it clear that the maintenance of order in ex-Yugoslavia is fundamentally up to the European countries and the EEC, and that the US was only mixing in this situation to the extent that the Europeans were showing their impotence.
For those who have followed the games being played by the big powers since the beginning of the confrontations in Yugoslavia, the current position of the leading world power might seem to be a mystery. For months, notably after the proclamation of independence by Slovenia and Croatia in the summer of 91, the USA has appeared to be a real ally of Serbia, in particular by condemning the dismantling of Yugoslavia, which was the inevitable result of the secession of the two northern republics. Within the EEC, the two countries traditionally closest to the US, Britain and Holland, did everything they could to leave Serbia with a free hand in its operations to crush Croatia, or at least to amputate a good third of its territory. For months, the USA railed against 'European impotence' which they had done a great deal to aggravate, only to finally appear on the scene like Zorro and obtain through the UN emissary, American diplomat Cyrus Vance (what a stroke of luck), a cease-fire in Croatia, when Serbia had already achieved its essential war aims in the region.
In fact, this action by American diplomacy can be perfectly well understood. If Croatian independence had been strongly encouraged by Germany, it's because it coincided with the new imperialist ambitions of this country, whose power and position in Europe makes it the most serious claimant to the role of leader of a new coalition directed against the USA, now that the threat from the east is over. For the German bourgeoisie, an independent and 'friendly' Croatia was the condition for opening up access to the Mediterranean, which is an indispensable prize for any power aiming to play a global role. And this is what the USA wanted to avoid at any price. Its support to Serbia during the confrontations in Croatia, which seriously ravaged the latter, enabled the US to show both Croatia and Germany what it costs to follow policies that don't suit the USA. But precisely because the world's leading power didn't have to get mixed up in this situation in the second half of 91 and the beginning of 92, and was letting the EEC reveal its impotence, it could then come onto the scene in force and make a scapegoat out of yesterday's ally, Serbia.
Today, the USA's sudden passion for the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina obviously has nothing to do with the fact that the authorities of the latter are more 'democratic' than those in Croatia. The same race of gangsters rule in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade and ... Washington. In reality, from the USA's point of view, the great superiority of Bosnia-Herzegovina over Croatia lies in the fact that it can act as a major counter-weight to German presence in the region. For both historic and geographical reasons, Germany was from the start the country best placed to pull an independent Croatia into its sphere of influence. This is why the USA did not immediately try to compete for influence in Croatia, but on the contrary did all it could to oppose this country's independence. But once Germany had played its cards in Croatia, it fell to the American bourgeoisie to reaffirm its position as world cop and thus to arrive in force in a region normally left to the European states. The cynicism and brutality of the Serbian state and its militias have given it an ideal opportunity. By declaring itself the great protector of the populations of Bosnia who are victims of this brutality, Uncle Sam aims to achieve a number of things:
* it has once again shown, as it did during the Gulf war and the Madrid conference on the Middle East, that no important problem in international relations can be dealt with without the intervention of Washington;
* it has issued a message to the leading circles of the two big neighbours of ex-Yugoslavia, states of considerable strategic importance, Italy and Turkey, in order to convince them to remain loyal;
* it is reopening the wounds caused by the Yugoslav question in the special alliance between Germany and France (even if these difficulties are not great enough to call into question the convergence of interest between these two countries);
* it is preparing its implantation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to deprive Germany of free access to the Croatian ports in Dalmatia.
Concerning the latter point, you only have to look at the map to see that Dalmatia is made up of a narrow strip of territory between the sea and the heights held by Herzegovina. If Germany, thanks to its alliance with Croatia, dreamed of setting up military bases in the ports of Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik as points of support for a Mediterranean fleet, it would be confronted by the fact that these ports are respectively 80, 40 and 10 km from the 'enemy' frontier. In case of an international crisis, it would be easy for the USA to blockade these ports, as Serbia has already shown, cutting off these German positions from their rear and rendering them useless
Concerning the 'message' transmitted to Italy, it takes on its whole importance at a time when, like other European bourgeoisies (for example the French bourgeoisie in which the neo-Gaullist party, the RPR, is divided between partisans and adversaries of a closer alliance with Germany within the EEC), the bourgeoisie in Italy is divided about its international alignments, as can be seen from the current paralysis in its political apparatus. Taking into account the important position of this country in the Mediterranean (control of the passage between east and west in this sea, the presence in Naples of the US 6th fleet), the USA is ready to do what is necessary to dissuade it from joining the Franco-German tandem.
Similarly, the US warning to Turkey can be well understood at a time when this country is aiming to combine its own regional ambitions vis-a-vis the Muslim republics of the ex-USSR (which it wants to detach from the influence of Russia, now an ally of the US), with an alliance with Germany and support for the imperialist ambitions of this country in the Middle East. Turkey also occupies a highly strategic position since it controls the passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Thus, its current rapprochement with Germany (highlighted notably by the 'scandal' of the delivery of military material destined for the repression of the Kurds, a scandal revealed thanks to the 'good offices' of Washington) represents a very serious threat for the USA. The latter has already begun to react by supporting the Kurdish nationalists and they are ready to use even more significant means to stop this rapprochement. In particular, the 'protection' now being given by the world's first power to the Muslim populations of Bosnia-Herzegovina (a majority in this country) is seen as a slap in the face to Turkey which is supposed to be the big protector of the Muslims of the region.
Thus the present situation in ex-Yugoslavia reveals, behind all the speeches about the return of peace and the protection of populations, the continuation and aggravation of the antagonisms between the great powers. Antagonisms which have been fed by the chaos that the collapse of Stalinism has engendered in this country and which have in their turn aggravated this chaos. Even if the pressure from the US, or even a direct intervention, might momentarily calm things down (for example by obliging Serbia to renounce some of its pretensions), the future of ex-Yugoslavia, like that of the rest of this part of the world (Balkans, eastern Europe) can only be one of new antagonisms and increasingly violent conflicts, given its strategic importance for the great powers. It's an illustration of the irreversible advance of the general decomposition of capitalist society. A new Lebanon is being created at the very gates of the great European metropoles.
However, what the massacres in Yugoslavia show is that even if decomposition is a phenomenon which escapes the control of all sectors of the bourgeoisie, including those in the most developed and powerful countries, these latter sectors do not remain inactive and passive faced with such a phenomenon. Contrary to the new government teams set up in the countries of the old eastern bloc (not to mention, of course, the situation in the 'third world'), who are completely swamped by the economic and political situation (notably by the explosion of nationalisms and ethnic conflicts), the governments of the most developed countries are still capable of taking advantage of decomposition for the defense of the interests of their national capital. This was demonstrated in particular at the beginning of May by the riots in Los Angeles.
How the bourgeoisie uses its own decomposition
As the ICC has shown, the general decomposition of capitalist society developing today reveals the total historic dead-end reached by this system. As with crises and wars, decomposition is not a matter of the good or bad intent of the bourgeoisie, or of some erroneous policy on its part. It is imposed on it in an insurmountable and irreversible manner. The fact that decomposition, in the same way as a third world war, can only lead, in the context of capitalism, to the extinction of humanity doesn't change any of this. This is what was shown by the 'Earth Summit' held in Rio in June. As could have been predicted, the mountain gave birth to a molehill despite the increasing gravity of the environmental problems demonstrated by the majority of scientists. At a time when, as a result of the Greenhouse Effect, terrible famines are looming on the horizon, and even the disappearance of the human species, everyone is passing the buck to make sure that nothing gets done (North against South, Europe against the USA, etc).
But while the bourgeoisie is proving itself to be absolutely incapable of arriving at any long-term, global policy, even when its own survival is threatened, along with that of the rest of humanity, it is still capable of reacting against the effects of decomposition in the short term and for the defense of its national interests. Thus, the riots in Los Angeles have revealed that the most powerful bourgeoisies still have a considerable ability to maneuver.
Los Angeles is a sort of concentrate of all the characteristics of American society: opulence and poverty, hi-tec and violence. Symbol of the American dream, it's also become a symbol of the American nightmare. As we have already pointed out in our texts on decomposition, this phenomenon, like the economic crisis which lies behind it, has its starting point in the heart of capitalism, even if it takes its most extreme and catastrophic forms in the peripheries. And LA is the heart of the heart. For a number of years now, decomposition has ravaged it in a tragic manner, especially in the black ghettoes. In most American cities, these ghettoes have become real hells, dominated by unbearable poverty, by 'third world' conditions of housing and health (for example, infant mortality has reached levels typical of the most backward countries; AIDS has taken an immense toll, etc), and above all by a generalized despair which has led a considerable proportion of young people, from the very beginning of adolescence, towards drugs, prostitution and gangsterism. Because of this, violence and murder are part of daily life in these areas: the main cause of death among black males between 15 and 34 is homicide; nearly a quarter of black males between 20 and 29 are in prison or on remand; 45% of the prison population is black (blacks make up 12% of the total population). In Harlem, the black ghetto of New York, as a result of drug overdoses, murder and illness, the life expectancy of a man is lower than it is in Bangladesh.
This situation has got worse and worse through the 80s, but the current recession, with its dizzying rise in unemployment, is magnifying it even more. As a result, for months now numerous 'specialists' have been predicting riots and explosions of violence in these areas. And this is precisely the threat the American bourgeoisie has reacted against. Rather than allowing itself to be surprised by a succession of spontaneous and uncontrollable explosions, it has preferred to organize a veritable fire-brake, enabling it to choose the time and place of such an upsurge of violence and so to prevent future outbreaks as much as possible.
The place: Los Angeles, the paradigm of urban hell in the USA, where more than 10,000 young people live by the drug trade, and where the ghettoes are patrolled by hundreds of armed gangs who slaughter each other for the control of a street or a sales pitch for crack.
The moment: at the beginning of the presidential campaigns, which are well underway, but at a respectable distance from the election itself, so that there are no uncontrolled outbreaks coming at the last minute to put President Bush in a bad light, especially after the opinion polls have not put him in a very strong position.
The method: first, a very broad media campaign around the trial of four white cops who had been filmed savagely beating up a black motorist: television viewers were shown this revolting scene over and over again. Then the cops were acquitted by a jury deliberately set up in a town known for its conservatism, its 'taste for order' and its sympathies for the police. Finally, as soon as the predictable disturbances arose after the result of the trial was announced, the police received orders from on high to desert the 'hot' neighborhoods, thus allowing the riot to achieve a considerable breadth. At the same time these same police forces remained very much in view in the nearby bourgeois neighborhoods, such as Beverly Hills. This tactic had the advantage of depriving the rioters of their traditional enemy, the cops, which meant that their anger was more than ever channelled towards pillaging shops, burning houses belonging to other communities, or the settling of scores between gangs. This tactic meant that the majority of the 58 deaths resulting from this explosion were not due to the police force but to confrontations between the inhabitants of the ghettoes (particularly between young rioters and small shopkeepers determined to protect their property with guns in their hands).
The means and conditions of the return to order were also part of the maneuver: the same soldiers who, hardly a year and a half ago were defending 'international law' and 'democracy' in the Gulf were now participating in the pacification of the riotous neighborhoods. The repression was not very bloody but it was on a wide-scale: 12,000 arrests, and for weeks after, the TV showed hundreds of trials in which rioters were sent to prison. The message was clear: even if it did not behave like some 'third world' regime that simply slaughters those who threaten public order (this was all the easier because, thanks to their provocation, the authorities were at no point overrun by the events), 'US democracy' showed that it can be as firm as it needs to be. It was a warning against those who might want to get involved in riots in the future.
The 'management' of the LA riots allowed the leading team of the American bourgeoisie to show all the other sectors that, despite all the difficulties it's facing, despite the cancerous growth of the ghettoes and of urban violence, it is still capable of discharging its responsibilities. In a world more and more subject to all kinds of convulsions, the question of the authority, both internal and external, of the planet's biggest power is of the highest importance for the bourgeoisie of this country. By provoking Saddam Hussein in the summer of 1990, then by mounting Operation Desert Storm at the beginning of 91, Bush showed that he could display such authority at the international level. Los Angeles, with all the spectacular media campaigns around it, comparable to the ones launched during the Gulf war, proved that the present administration also knows how to react on the 'domestic' level, and that no matter how catastrophic it is, the internal situation in the USA is still under control.
However, the riots provoked in LA were not only a means for the state and the government to reaffirm their authority faced with the various expressions of decomposition. They were also instruments in a wide-scale offensive against the working class.
The bourgeoisie prepares for a revival of the class struggle
As the resolution points out, "the considerable aggravation of the capitalist crisis, and particularly in the most developed countries, is a prime factor in refuting all the lies about the 'triumph' of capitalism, even in the absence of any workers' struggles. In the same way, the accumulation of discontent provoked by the multiplication and intensification of attacks resulting from the aggravation of the crisis will eventually open the way to broad movements which will restore a sense of confidence to the working class ... For the moment, workers' struggles are at their lowest level since the second world war. But we must be certain of the fact that right now the condition for future upsurges are developing ..." (Point 16).
In all the advanced countries, the bourgeoisie is well aware of this situation, and this applies particularly to the US bourgeoisie. This is why the LA riots were also aimed at a preventative weakening of future workers' struggles. In particular, thanks to the images which allowed them to present the blacks as real savages (such as the pictures of young blacks attacking white truck drivers), the ruling class has succeeded in reinforcing one of the weak points of the American working class: the division between white workers and black workers, or workers from other ethnic groups. As a bourgeois expert put it: "the level of sympathy that whites might have had for the blacks has considerably diminished because of the fear provoked among whites by the constant increase in black criminality" (C Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, 6.5.92). In this sense, the image that the bourgeoisie gave of a re-establishment of order against gangs of black delinquents, looter and dealers could be welcomed by a proportion of white workers, who are often victims of urban insecurity. On this occasion, the 'efficiency' of the forces sent by the Federal state (which was supposedly in contrast to the 'inefficiency' of the local police forces) could only increase the authority of the former.
At the same time this upsurge of racism has been exploited by the professionals of anti-racism in order to launch new diversionary a-classist campaigns, which far from facilitating the class unity of the proletariat, tend to dilute it in the population as a whole and tie it to the chariot of 'democracy'. Meanwhile, the unions and the Democratic Party have taken advantage of the situation in order to denounce the social policies of the Republican administration since the beginning of the 80s, which are blamed for the growth of urban poverty. In other words, for things to get better, you have to go and vote for the 'best candidate' - an idea which gives a boost to an electoral campaign which hasn't mobilized many people so far.
The different manifestations of decomposition, such as the urban riots in the 'third world' and the advanced countries, will be used by the bourgeoisie against the working class as long as the latter is not able to put forward its own class perspective - the overthrow of capitalism. And this is true whether such events are spontaneous or provoked. But when the bourgeoisie is able to choose the moment and the circumstances of such explosions, it's much more effective for the defense of its social order. The fact that the LA riots came at a very good time for using them against the working class is confirmed by all the other maneuvers being used by the ruling class against the exploited class in other advanced countries. The most significant example of this bourgeois policy has been given to us recently in one of the most important countries of the capitalist world, Germany.
Offensive of the bourgeoisie against the working class in Germany
The importance of this country does not only derive from its economic weight and its growing strategic role. This is also a country in which one of the most powerful working classes in the world lives, works and struggles, a proletariat which, given its numbers and concentration in the heart of industrial Europe, as well as its incomparable historical experience, holds many of the keys to the future movement of the working class towards the world revolution. It's precisely for this reason that the political offensive of the bourgeoisie against the working class in Germany, which was spearheaded by the biggest public sector strike in 18 years, a strike masterfully led by the unions, was not only aimed at the working class of this country. The considerable echo which this strike had in the media of the various European countries (whereas, normally, workers' struggles are subject to an almost complete black-out abroad) demonstrated that the whole European proletariat is the target of this offensive.
The specific conditions of Germany at the present moment allow us to understand why such an action was launched now in this country. Apart from its economic and historic importance, which are permanent factors, apart from the fact that the German bourgeoisie, like all its class brothers, has to deal with a new and major aggravation of the economic crisis, the bourgeoisie of this country is currently confronted with the problem of reunification (in fact, the 'digestion' of the east by the west). This reunification is a bottomless pit for billions of Deutsch Marks. The state deficit has risen to unprecedented levels for this 'virtuous' country. For the bourgeoisie then, the important thing is to prepare the working class for unprecedented attacks in order to make it accept the costs of reunification. It's a question of making it understand that the fat years are over and that it must be ready to make major sacrifices. This is why the wage offers in the public sector (4.9%), at a time when taxes of all kinds are being imposed, was below the level of inflation. This was the battle cry of the unions, who were more radical than they had been for decades, organizing massive rolling strikes (more than 100,000 workers a day), which on some days led to real chaos in transport and other public services (which had the consequence of isolating the strikers from other sectors of the working class). After raising wage demands of 9%, the unions lowered their claim to 5.4%, presenting this figure as a 'victory' for the workers and a 'defeat' for Kohl. Obviously, the majority of workers considered that after three weeks on strike, this was hardly sufficient (only 0.5% more than the original offer, around 20DM a month) and the popularity of the very mediagenic Monika Mathies, president of the OTV, suffered a few dents. But, for the bourgeoisie, several important objectives had been attained:
* demonstrating that, despite a very massive strike and some 'hard' actions, it was impossible to undermine the bourgeoisie's determination to limit wage rises;
* presenting the unions which had systematically organized all the actions, and kept the workers in the greatest possible passivity, as real protagonists of the struggle against the bosses, and also as the social insurance you had to join in order to get your strike pay (during the strike, the workers queued up to get a union card valid for two years);
* reinforcing a little bit more the division between the workers of the east and those of the west: the former didn't understand why the western workers were asking for higher wages, since in the west wages are already much higher and unemployment is much lower; the latter, meanwhile, don't want to pay for the 'ossies' who are presented as lazy and incompetent.
In other countries, the image of Germany as a 'model' was a bit tarnished by the strikes. But the bourgeoisie was quick to bang in the nail against the consciousness of the working class:
* the strike by the 'privileged' German workers was supposed to be worsening the financial and economic situation of the west;
* despite all their strength (which was identified with that of the unions) and the prosperity of their country, the German workers weren't able to win much, so what's the point of fighting against the decline in living standards?
Thus, the most powerful bourgeoisie in Europe has given the keynote for the political offensive against the working class which will inevitably accompany economic attacks of an unprecedented brutality. For the moment, the maneuver has succeeded, but the breadth it has assumed is in proportion to the fear that the proletariat inspires in the bourgeoisie. The events of the past two years, and all the campaigns which have accompanied them, have significantly weakened the combativity and consciousness of the working class. But the class has not spoken its last word. Even before it has engaged in wide-scale struggles on its own terrain, all the preparations of the ruling class demonstrate the importance of its coming battles. FM, 14.6.92
 As the resolution points out, Germany and France don't have exactly the same expectations from their alliance. In particular, the latter country is counting on its military advantages to compensate for its economic inferiority to the former, so that it doesn't end up as a vassal. It wants to have a sort of co-leadership of an alliance of the main European states (with the exception of Britain, obviously). This is why France is not at all interested in a German presence in the Mediterranean, which would considerably diminish the value of its own fleet there and deprive it of a major card in its trade-offs with its 'friend'.
 It should not be ruled out that the US support for the Croatian populations in Bosnia, who are currently victims of Serbia, is aimed at showing Croatia that it has every interest in swooping German 'protection', which has proved to be of very limited usefulness, for a much more effective American protection.
 See in particular the articles in IR 57 and 62
 The media-based ascent of the Texan clown Perrot is also part of this maneuver aimed at giving a lease of life to the democratic game.