The ICC has just held its 10th Congress. Our organization carried out an evaluation of its activity, its positions, and its analyses, during the last two years, and set out its perspectives for the years to come. The Congress' focal point was a recognition of the turning point reached in the class struggle. The massive struggles of the Italian proletariat during the autumn of 1992 are a sign that the period of reflux begun in 1989 with the collapse of stalinism and the Russian bloc, is coming to an end. This reflux affected the readiness which the workers had shown until then to fight back against the austerity measures imposed by the ruling class; it also had a significant effect on the development of its revolutionary consciousness. With this perspective of a recovery in the struggle, the Congress adopted the orientation of intervention in the struggles which are beginning so that the ICC should be ready to play its part, as a political organization of the proletariat, in this period of struggles, which will be decisive for the proletariat, and for humanity as a whole.
Obviously, if we are to set out such perspectives, then it is vital to know whether the analyses and positions that the organization has defended since the last Congress have in fact corresponded to the development of those events which have dominated the international scene. The Congress acquitted itself of this task, evaluating the development of chaos and military conflicts, the crisis, imperialist tensions, and of course the class struggle. In the same way, it conducted an evaluation of the organization's activities in order to adapt them to the new period.
In general, we can say that this 10th Congress has strengthened the organization, and given us more and better weapons to face the end of the century, with a historic course still set towards a confrontation between capital and labor, where the intervention of the proletarian vanguard will play a decisive part. In this sense, our evaluation of the 10th ICC Congress is a positive one. Let us briefly explain, for the working class and the proletarian political milieu, why we consider this to be the case.
The growth of chaos
The ICC's 9th Congress, held during the summer of 1991, showed how the phase of capitalist decomposition which began during the 1980s, lay at the foundations of the fall of the Eastern imperialist bloc, the break-up of the USSR, and the death of stalinism.
The 10th Congress noted that our analyses of the phase of decomposition and its consequences have been entirely correct. Not only has the explosion of the old Eastern bloc continued, the entire Western bloc has followed its example, breaking down the old "harmony" between its members, including the world's most industrialized countries. This break-up of the system of blocs that had existed since 1945 has unleashed a chaos which, far from diminishing, is spreading like gangrene all over the planet.
One element that has accelerated the development of chaos has been the sharpening imperialist antagonisms between the great powers. These make the most of every conflict between the bourgeoisies of different countries, or within the same country, to try to lay hold of strategic positions against their rivals, ravaging the rickety economies of the countries involved in the conflict, which once again highlights the irrationality of war in the period of decadence. In this sense, there is no conflict, big or small, armed or not, which is not entangled in the struggle between the most powerful imperialist gangsters.
The other element is the tendency towards the formation of a new system of imperialist blocs, and the USA's struggle to remain the sole "world policeman". Germany's strategic advance in the Balkan's war, through its open support for the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, has positioned it as the one power capable of leading a bloc to rival the United States. However, the road to the formation of this new German bloc is becoming more and more difficult: on the one hand, is the determined opposition to German strategy from Great Britain and Holland, the USA's main allies in Europe; on the other, France and Germany's own specific imperialist appetites limit the reinforcement of the alliance between them, in which French military power would compensate German weakness in this domain.
Nor does the US have its hands free for military action. The rival powers' military and diplomatic activity in Yugoslavia has demonstrated the limitations of the 1991 "Desert Storm" operation, which was aimed at reasserting US leadership. Thanks to this, and to the opposition at home to the idea of a new Vietnam, the US has not had the same freedom of movement in Yugoslavia. However, the US has been anything but a passive spectator of events: its offensive, begun with the "humanitarian" intervention in Somalia and the "aid" to the muslim populations of Bosnia-Herzegovina being hunted down by the Serbian militia, has intensified with the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnian territory.
This whole situation only confirms the constant tendency towards the development of military conflict.
The crisis hits the heart of capitalism
At the economic level, the Congress observed that the crisis, expressed through the current economic recession, has become a major preoccupation for the bourgeoisie of the central capitalist countries. Since 1990 it has become clear that all the bourgeoisie's palliative to the crisis is wearing thin. The USA is not the only country to be hit by the recession (now in its third year in the US): "the open recession ... quote from int sit" (Point 9 of the Resolution on the international situation, published in this issue. World capital is suffering from a crisis which has reached a qualitatively higher degree than any experienced before.
Since the "neo-liberal" policies of the 1980s have proven incapable of providing the slightest solution, the bourgeoisie in the central countries has undertaken a strategic redirection, towards a still greater involvement by the state in the economy. This has been a constant feature of decadent capitalism, even under Reagan, since the only way out could survive was by constantly cheating with its own economic laws. With Clinton's election, the world's greatest power has concretized this strategy. Nonetheless, "int sit quote".
But the sharpening crisis is not only expressed in the economic recession. The disappearance of the imperialist blocs has also sharpened the crisis and economic chaos.
The accentuation of the crisis in the central countries has been immediately translated into a deterioration in the proletariat's living conditions. But the proletariat is not inclined to accept passively the decline into unemployment and poverty. In 1992, the Italian proletariat reminded us again that the crisis remains the ally of the working class.
The recovery in the workers' combativity
This was a focal point of the 10th Congress. After three years of reflux, the massive struggles of the Italian proletariat in the autumn of 1992 (see International Review no. 73), the huge demonstrations by miners and other workers in Britain against mine closures, and the mobilization of the workers in Germany this winter, along with other signs of workers' combativity in Europe and the rest of the world, have confirmed the ICC's position that the historic course is towards massive confrontations between bourgeoisie and proletariat.
But the most significant aspect of this recovery in the proletarian struggle in the central countries, is that they mark the start of an overcoming of the reflux in consciousness begun in 1989. Nonetheless, it would be naive of us to imagine that this recovery in the struggle will be linear and devoid of difficulty: the negative effects of 1989 - confusion, doubts as to the class' revolutionary capacities - are still far from being completely overcome.
These factors are joined by the damaging effects of capitalism's decomposition on the working class: atomization, the ideology of "look after number one", which undermines proletarian solidarity; the loss of perspective in the face of the reigning chaos; massive and long-term unemployment, which tends to separate the unemployed from the rest of the class, and to plunge many - especially the young - into delinquency; xenophobic and anti-racist campaigns, which tend to divide the workers; the rot in the ruling class and its political apparatus, which encourages all sorts of propaganda around "the struggle against corruption"; "humanitarian" campaigns over the barbarism unleashed on the "Third World", which the bourgeoisie uses to make the workers feel guilty, and to justify the decline in their living conditions. All these factors, like the wars where the participation of and confrontation between the great powers are not obvious (eg Yugoslavia), make the process of developing the proletariat's consciousness and renewing its combativity more difficult.
However, the gravity of the crisis, the brutality of the bourgeoisie's attacks, the inevitable development of wars where the central countries are openly involved, will all open the workers' eyes to the bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production. The perspective before us is thus a massive development in workers' struggles. This recovery in proletarian activity demands that revolutionaries intervene, that they take an active part in the combat in order to fulfill their potential, and to defend determinedly the communist perspective.
The ICC's activities
To live up to the challenge of the recovery in workers' struggles, the 10th Congress had to make an objective evaluation of the organization's activities since the previous Congress, verify that its orientations had been carried out, consider the difficulties that had appeared, in order to prepare as well as possible for the period to come. The Congress evaluated the organization's activities positively:
"The organization has proved itself capable of resisting the disorientation that has come in the wake of the bourgeoisie's renewed ideological campaigns "on the end of marxism and the class struggle". It has set out perspectives, which have consistently proved correct, on the acceleration of inter-imperialist tensions and of the crisis, and on the recovery of workers' combativity which would inevitably follow the avalanche of attacks launched against the working class; it has done so, while taking into account the specificities of the present historic phase of decomposition, and developing its activity with regard to present conditions and the state of its own militant strength" (Point 2 of the Resolution on Activities).
Theoretical and political strengthening of the organization
One positive aspect of our activities has been the theoretical and political deepening that the organization has carried out in the face of the need to confront the bourgeoisie's campaigns on the death of communism. This demanded that we explain clearly and carefully the counter-revolutionary nature of stalinism; however, one factor (the other being the acceleration of history to which we must always respond rapidly) made this task still more important: the development of revolutionary elements in contact with the ICC. These contacts, going against the surrounding social atmosphere, are the expression of a subterranean maturation in class consciousness expressed through this minority.
Moreover, these new events have shown us that it is not enough to master a general analytical framework. We must know how to "speak marxism", to apply it to the analysis of particular events and situations, and this is impossible without constant theoretical and political work.
"The continuation of our theoretical and political efforts, a vigilant attention to the evolution of the international and different national situations will determine the organization's ability to play an active part within the working class as it draws out a general perspective for the struggle, and in the end a communist perspective" (Point 3 of the Resolution on Activities).
Right from the birth of the groups which formed the ICC, and of the ICC, the organization has always considered itself as an international one. But our ability to make this internationalist conception live is coming up against still greater difficulties today. The weight of decomposition on the whole of society increases the pressure of individualism, the spirit of "every man for himself", and localism, on today's revolutionary organizations still more than did the weight of post-68 petty-bourgeois ideology on the organizations of the 1970s. The 10th Congress debated the need to strengthen the ICC's political and organizational life with a determination to confront and overcome these new difficulties:
"In every aspect of our activities, at every moment, in our functioning and our political deepening, from day to day and in every task of the local sections, our tasks are 'international tasks', our discussions are 'international discussions', our contacts are 'international contacts'. Strengthening our international framework is the precondition for strengthening all our local activity" (point 4 of the Resolution on Activities).
The ICC's international centralization is a fundamental precondition for it to play its part as a proletarian political vanguard:
"Our conception of the organization is not one where the central organ dictates orientations which then need only be applied, but of a living tissue where all the components act constantly as parts of the whole (...) The substitution of a central organ for the life of the organization is completely foreign to our functioning. The organization's discipline is fundamentally based on a conviction in a constant, living international mode of functioning and it implies a common responsibility at every level in working out our positions and in the organization's activity as a whole" (Point 4 of the Resolution on Activities).
"The international situation today opens perspectives for intervention in the struggle such as we have not seen in recent years" (Point 6 of the Resolution on Activities).
It is through our principal tool of intervention, the press that we must adapt to dynamic of the new period. We will have to intervene simultaneously at every level: decomposition, economic crisis, imperialism, class struggle.
"In this context, good reflexes and rapid action, rigor in following events, a profound assimilation of our orientations, will all be more decisive than ever (...) Firstly, the press must react to events, and to the first signs of recovery in the workers' struggle, with determination, while at the same time still dealing with the exacerbation of imperialist tensions, the questions of war and decomposition, responding constantly and correctly to what is going on under our eyes, taking account of the situation's full complexity, and denouncing untiringly the lies and maneuvers of the bourgeoisie and showing the proletariat's perspectives (...) we must take part in the development within the working class of the consciousness that it alone is the revolutionary class which bears within it the only alternative to decomposing capitalism - a dimension of its consciousness which has been especially hard hit by the ideological campaigns which accompanied the historical bankruptcy of stalinism" (Point 6 of the Resolution on Activities).
Our intervention towards sympathizers in contact with the ICC
The ICC has seen an important increase, in its different sections, in the number of contacts, which is a product of a minority within the working class approaching revolutionary positions. We have recognized that the number of contacts will increase with our intervention in the struggle. The organization's intervention towards them must be extremely determined, to permit their real incorporation into the proletarian revolutionary movement. The ICC, through its intervention towards these contacts must assert itself as the main pole of regroupment of revolutionary forces at the present time.
Intervention in the struggle
"The most important change for our intervention in the coming period is the perspective of a recovery in the workers' struggle" (idem). Our intervention in the struggle was a central element in the Congress' discussions. After three years of reflux in the class struggle, we insisted that the ICC must react rapidly, and be prepared to intervene without hesitating in the new situation:
"We will carry out our function as a revolutionary organization first and foremost in our ability to be active participants in the struggle, in our concern to try whenever possible to influence the course of the struggle and to make concrete proposals for action" (idem).
One of the main aspects of intervention in the workers' struggles is to avoid leaving the field free for the leftists and unions to act, especially through the rank-and-file unionists. As the struggles in Italy have shown us, these will play a major role, in trying to derail and control the struggle, by preventing them from developing on a class terrain, and by trying to confuse and demoralize the workers. Our intervention must aim to strengthen the greatest possible unity within the class:
"The organization must always intervene by putting forward, in every experience of working class struggle, what really defends the immediate interests of the class, the common interests of the whole class, what makes possible the extension and unity of the struggle, and its control by the workers themselves" (idem).
In the same way, "In the context of the working class' weakness on the level of consciousness, our intervention in the workers' struggles must, even more than in the past, highlight the historical bankruptcy of the capitalist system, its international and definitive crisis, the ineluctable plunge into misery, barbarism and wars if the bourgeoisie's rule continues, along with the perspective of communism" (idem).
Our intervention in the proletarian political movement
The tendency towards a reawakening of the struggle at levels unknown since the historic recovery at the end of the 1960s demands the strengthening, not just of the ICC but of the whole proletarian movement. This is why the 10th Congress paid special attention to our intervention within it. Although the response of the proletarian milieu to the Appeal of our 9th Congress has been very limited, we must not let this discourage us. We must improve our understanding of the different groups' positions, our mobilization, and our intervention in this respect.
A central element in strengthening our intervention in the political milieu, of which we are a part, is to reaffirm that it is itself an expression of the class' life, of the process of development of the class' consciousness. Strengthening our intervention towards the political milieu demands that debate within it be open, rigorous and fraternal, that its groups break with sectarianism and with the warped vision of some groups which consider that "any questioning, any debate, any disagreement is not a sign of a process of reflection within the working class but a 'betrayal of invariant principles'" (Point 2, Resolution on the proletarian political milieu).
These debates will in turn through a clearer light on new events, both for the ICC and for the rest of the milieu, which has experienced some confusion in understanding them.
"This was particularly true with the events in the East and the Gulf War. Even when these groups managed a minimum of clarity, it was accompanied by major confusions and came late in relation to the ICC. This observation is not to reassure us, or to let us sleep on our laurels, but to bring home the extent of our responsibilities towards the milieu as a whole. It should encourage in us a greater attention, mobilization, and rigour in following the proletarian political milieu, and intervening in it" (Point 4, idem).
The question of the defense of the proletarian political milieu taken as a whole required of the Congress a greater political clarity on the groups of the parasitic milieu which revolves around, and poisons the proletarian movement.
"Whatever their platform (which may formally be perfectly valid) the groups of the parasitic milieu do not express in the least any effort to developing consciousness within the class. In this sense, they are not part of the proletarian milieu, even if they should not be considered as belonging to the bourgeois camp (which is fundamentally determined by a bourgeois program: defense of the USSR, of democracy, etc). Fundamentally, what they express, and what determines their evolution (whether this be conscious or unconscious on the part of their members) is not the defense of revolutionary principles within the class, nor the clarification of political positions, but the spirit of the sect, or the 'group of friends', the affirmation of their own individuality against the organizations that they live off, all this being based on personal grievances, resentments, frustrations, and other wretched concerns derived from petty-bourgeois ideology" (Point 5, idem).
We can make no concessions to this parasitic milieu, which is a confusing and above all destructive factor in the proletarian political movement. Still less so today, when it is vital to defend and strengthen the proletarian political movement if it is to face up to the challenge of the new period, and confront all the attacks that it will have to undergo.
The ICC held its 10th Congress at a crucial moment in history: the proletariat is returning to the road of struggle against capital; the massive struggles of the Italian workers are an indication. Already the bourgeoisie's gigantic campaign on "the death of communism" is beginning to give way to the harsh reality of military barbarism and merciless attacks on the living conditions of the proletariat in the central countries, as a result of the increasing acceleration of the crisis of over-production.
Our 10th Congress has armed the ICC better to confront the challenge of the new period; the organization is united on the turning point reached in the situation, with the international recovery in the class struggle. Moreover, the Congress consolidated our analysis of inter-imperialist tensions and the crisis, whose acceleration is plunging decomposing capitalism into still greater chaos.
The Congress also insisted that this recovery in the struggle would not be easy, and that the collapse of stalinism and the Eastern bloc would continue to weigh on the development of proletarian consciousness, and would not be easily overcome. Moreover, the bourgeoisie will do everything in its power to prevent the proletariat raising its struggles to higher levels of combativity and consciousness. This is why the Congress adopted its perspectives to strengthen the ICC's international centralization, and to arm it better for intervention in the class struggle, but also in all the other expressions of class consciousness, such as the new contacts and the proletarian political movement.
With this 10th Congress, the ICC intends to live up to the demands of this historic period, and to take on its role as a vanguard of the proletariat. And in this way, we will help to overcome the reflux in the development of class consciousness, so that the class may reassert itself, and defend the only alternative to capitalist barbarism: communism.