For ten years decomposition has spread its grip over the whole of society. Increasingly, world events can only be understood in this framework. However, the phase of decomposition belongs to capitalism's decadence and the tendencies proper to the whole of this period do not disappear, far from it. Thus in examining the world situation it is important to distinguish the phenomena which spring from the period of decadence in general, from those which specifically belong to its ultimate phase of decomposition, especially since their respective impacts on the working class are not identical and can even act in opposing senses. And this applies as much on the level of imperialist conflicts as on that of the economic crisis which both constitute the essential elements determining the development of working class struggles and its consciousness.
The evolution of imperialist rivalries
1) Rarely since the end of World War II has the world known such a proliferation and intensification of wars as we are seeing today. The Gulf War, at the beginning of 91, was supposed to install a "new world order" based on "Law". Since then the free for all which followed the end of the carving up of the world by the two imperialist colossi has not ceased to spread and worsen. Africa and South East Asia, traditional terrains for imperialist confrontation, have continued their plunge into convulsions and wars. Liberia, Rwanda, Angola, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cambodia: these countries are today synonymous with armed confrontations and desolation despite all the "peace accords" and the intervention of the "international community" directly or indirectly patronized by the UNO. To these "storm zones" can be added the Caucasus and Central Asia which are paying a heavy price in inter-ethnic massacres for the disappearance of the USSR. Lastly, the haven of stability which Europe has constituted since the end of World War II is now plunged into one of the most bloody and barbaric conflicts. These confrontations tragically express the characteristics of the capitalist world in decomposition. They largely result from the newly created situation which constitutes, up to now, the most important manifestation of this new phase of capitalist decadence: the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and of the Eastern bloc. But, at the same time, these conflicts are again aggravated by one of the general and fundamental characteristics of this decadence: the antagonism between the different imperialist powers. Thus, the pretended "humanitarian aid" in Somalia is only a pretext and an instrument of the confrontation of the two imperialist powers which today oppose each other in Africa: the United States and France. Behind the offensive of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia lies China. Behind the different cliques battling for power in Kabul, stand the interests of the regional powers of Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, powers whose own interests and antagonisms are tied up with those of the "Great" powers, like the United States and Germany. Lastly, the convulsions which have put Yugoslavia to fire and sword, just some hundreds of miles away from "advanced" Europe, also reveal the principal antagonisms which today divide the planet.
2) Ex-Yugoslavia has become a major bone of contention in the rivalries between the world's main powers. If the confrontations and massacres which have unfolded here have found a favorable terrain with ancestral ethnic antagonisms smothered by the Stalinist regimes whose collapse has bought back to the surface, the sordid calculations of the major powers have constituted a factor of the first order in the exacerbation of these antagonisms. It is because Germany encouraged the secession of the northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia, so as to make an opening towards the Mediterranean that has opened the Pandora's Box of Yugoslavia. It is because the other European states, as well as the United States, were opposed to this German offensive that they have directly, or indirectly by their inactivity, encouraged Serbia and its militias to unleash "ethnic cleansing" in the name of the "defense of minorities". In fact, ex-Yugoslavia constitutes a sort of resume, a striking and tragic illustration of the whole of the world situation in the domain of imperialist conflicts.
3) In the first place, the confrontations which today ravage this part of the world are a new confirmation of the total economic irrationality of imperialist war. For a long time, and following the "Gauche Communiste de France", the ICC has pointed out the fundamental difference opposing wars of the ascendant period of capitalism, which had a real rationality for the development of this system, and those of the period of decadence which can only express the total economic absurdity of a mode of production in agony. If the aggravation of imperialist antagonisms has as its ultimate cause the scramble of all the national bourgeoisies faced with the total dead end of the capitalist economy, the conflicts of war offer not the slightest "solution" to the crisis, for the world economy as a whole any more than for any country in particular. As "Internationalisme" already noted in 1945, war is no longer at the service of the economy, but rather the economy which is at the service of war and its preparation. And this phenomenon has only got worse since. In the case of Yugoslavia, none of the protagonists can hope for the least economic profit from their involvement in the conflict. This is evident for all the Republics who are making war at the present time: the massive destruction of the means of production and the forces of labor, the paralysis of transport and productive activity, the enormous waste that armaments represent to the detriment of the local economy will benefit none of the new states. Similarly, contrary to the idea which exists in the proletarian political milieu, this totally ravaged economy can in no way constitute a solvent market for the surplus production of the industrialized countries. It is not markets which the major powers are disputing on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia, but strategic positions destined to prepare for what has become the principal activity of decadent capitalism: imperialist war on a still larger scale.
4) The situation in ex-Yugoslavia confirms another point that the ICC has underlined for a long time: the fragility of the European edifice. This, with its different institutions (European Organization of Economic Cooperation responsible for administering the Marshall Plan and which was ultimately transformed into the OECD, the Western European Union founded in 1949, the European Community of Coal and Steel which came into being in 1952, and which five years later became the European Economic Community) was essentially constituted as an instrument of the American bloc faced with the threat of a Russian bloc. The common interests of the different states of Western Europe faced with this threat (which did not prevent France's president de Gaulle from trying to limit US hegemony) constituted a powerful factor stimulating cooperation, notably economic, between these states. Such cooperation was unable to overcome the economic rivalries amongst them - a result which cannot be attained in capitalism - but it did permit a certain "solidarity" faced with the commercial competition of Japan and the United States. With the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the basis of the European edifice has been overturned. Henceforth, the European Union, that the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 wants to follow the EEC, will no longer be considered as an instrument of a Western bloc which itself has ceased to exist. On the contrary, this structure has become a battleground for imperialist antagonisms that the disappearance of the old configuration of the world has thrown up. This is what the confrontations in Yugoslavia have shown when we see the profound divisions displayed by the European states incapable of putting together the least common policy faced with a conflict developing on their own doorstep. Today, even if the "European Union" can still be used by all the participants as a bulwark against the commercial competition of Japan and the United States or as an instrument against immigration and against the combats of the working class, its diplomatic and military component is the object of a dispute which can only get worse between those (particularly France and Germany) who want to make it play a role as a structure capable of rivaling American power (preparing the formation of a future imperialist bloc) and the allies of the United States (essentially Britain and Holland) who see their presence there as a means of restraining such a tendency.
5) The evolution of the conflict in the Balkans equally illustrates one of the other characteristics of the world situation: the fetters on the reconstitution of a new system of imperialist blocs. As the ICC has underlined from the end of 89, the tendency towards such a system has been on the agenda ever since the old one disappeared with the collapse of the Eastern bloc. The emergence of a candidate to the leadership of a new imperialist bloc, rivaling that which would be led by the United States, is rapidly confirmed with the advance of Germany's positions in central Europe and in the Balkans whereas its freedom of military and diplomatic maneuver is still limited by the constraints inherited from its defeat in the World War II. The ascension of Germany is largely based on its economic and financial power, but it has also benefited from the support of its old accomplice in the EEC, France (concerted action in relation to the European Community, creation of common army corps, etc). However, Yugoslavia has shown the contradictions which divide this tandem: whereas Germany gave solid support to Slovenia and Croatia, for a long period France maintained a pro-Serbian policy aligning it, in the first instance, with the position of Britain and the United States, which permitted the latter to drive in a wedge within the privileged alliance between the two main European countries. Even if these two countries have made great efforts to see that the bloody imbroglio in Yugoslavia does not compromise their cooperation (for example Bundesbank support for the French Franc against speculative attacks), it is more and more clear that they do not put the same hopes in their alliance. Because of its economic power and its geographic position, Germany aspires to the leadership of a "Greater Europe" which itself would be the central axis of a new imperialist bloc. If it agrees to play such a role in the European structure, the French bourgeoisie, who since 1870 know the power of their neighbor to the east, would not be content with the role of second fiddle that is offered them with this alliance. For that reason France is not interested in too great a development of German military power (access to the Mediterranean, acquisition of nuclear arms notably) which would devalue the trumps it holds in order to maintain a certain parity with its neighbor over the leadership of Europe and at the head of contestation of American hegemony. The Paris meeting of March 11 between Vance, Owen and Milosevic under the presidency of Mitterrand, once again illustrates this reality. Thus, one of the conditions for a new sharing out of the world between two imperialist blocs, the very significant growth of the military capacities of Germany, carries with it the threat of serious difficulties between the two European candidates for the leadership of a new bloc. The conflict in ex-Yugoslavia confirms that the tendency towards the constitution of a new bloc, put on the agenda with the disappearance of that of the East in 1989, is by no means assured of reaching its end: to the geopolitical situation specific to the two bourgeoisies who make up the principal protagonists can be added the general difficulties proper to the period of decomposition which exacerbate the "each for themselves" between all the states.
6) The conflict in ex-Yugoslavia finally confirms one of the other major characteristics of the world situation: the limits of the efficacy of the 1991 operation "Desert Storm" designed to assert US leadership over the world. As the ICC said at the time, this large-scale operation was not mainly aimed at Saddam Hussein or even at the other countries of the periphery who might have tried to imitate Iraq. For the United States it was a question first of asserting and reminding others of its role as "world policeman" faced with the convulsions coming from the collapse of the Russian bloc, and particularly to obtain obedience from the other Western powers who, with the end of the threat from the east, were spreading their wings. Hardly some months after the Gulf War, the beginning of the confrontations in Yugoslavia illustrated the fact that these same powers, and particularly Germany, were quite determined to make their imperialist interests prevail to the detriment of those of the United States. Since then, the USA, while it has succeeded in demonstrating the impotence of the European Union by the lack of harmony reigning in the ranks of the latter, including here between the best allies of France and Germany, it ha not really contained the advance of other imperialisms, particularly those of the latter country which has, on the whole, achieved its aims in ex-Yugoslavia. Such a setback is clearly serious for the first world power since it can only encourage the tendency of numerous countries, on every continent, to use the new world givens in order to loosen the grip that's been imposed on them by the United States for decades. It is for this reason that the activism of the United States has not ceased around Bosnia after it made a display of military force with its massive and spectacular "humanitarian" deployment in Somalia and the prohibition of air space in South Iraq.
7) This latest military operation also confirms a certain number of realities previously put forward by the ICC. It has illustrated the fact that the real target aimed at by the United States in this part of the world is not Iraq, since it has strengthened Saddam Hussein's regime both inside and outside Iraq, but rather its "allies" that it tried, with less success than in 1991, to get behind it once more (the third thief of "the coalition", France, was content this time to send reconnaissance aircraft). In particular it constituted a message to Iran whose growing military power is accompanied by a re-forging of links with certain European, notably France. This operation equally confirms, since Kuwait is no longer concerned, that the Gulf War was not fought over the price of oil or for the United State's preservation of its "oil revenue" as the leftists, and even at one point certain groups in the political milieu have affirmed. If the US is keen to conserve and strengthen its grip on the Middle East and its oil fields, it is not fundamentally for commercial or strictly economic reasons. Above all it wants the power, should the need is felt, to deprive its Japanese and European rivals of their supplies of an essential raw material for a developed economy and still more for any military undertaking (a raw material moreover which the main ally of the US, Britain, has in abundance).
8) Thus, recent events have confirmed that, faced with an exacerbation of world chaos and of "look after number one" and the strong growth of its new imperialist rivals, the first world power will increasingly have to make use of its military force in order to preserve its supremacy. Potential areas of confrontation are not lacking and can only multiply. The Indian sub-continent, dominated by the antagonism between Pakistan and India, will find itself more and more concerned, as we can see, for example, with the confrontations in this latter country between religious communities which, if they are a testimony to decomposition, are stirred up by this antagonism. Similarly, the Far East today is the theatre of large-scale imperialist maneuvers such as, in particular, the rapprochement between China and Japan (sealed by the visit to Peking, for the first time in history, of the Emperor of Japan). It is more than likely that this configuration of imperialist forces will be confirmed since:
- there is no contentious issue remaining between China and Japan;
- each of these two countries has a dispute with Russia (the Russo-Chinese frontier, the Kurile Islands question);
- rivalry is growing between the United States and Japan around South East Asia and the Pacific;
- Russian is "condemned", even if that stirs up the "conservatives'" resistance to Yeltsin, to an American alliance from very fact of the importance of its atomic armaments (that the United States could not tolerate passing into the hands of another alliance).
Antagonisms between the first world power and its ex-allies do not even spare the American continent where repeated coup attempts against Carlos Andres Perez in Venezuela as well as the constitution of the NAFTA, quite apart from their economic and social causes and implications, are moves aimed at increasing the influence of certain European states. Thus, the world perspective on the level of imperialist tensions is characterized by an ineluctable increase of the latter with a growing use of military force by the United States, and the recent election of the Democrat, Clinton, will not reverse this tendency, on the contrary. Up to now, these tensions have essentially developed from the fall-out of the collapse of the Eastern bloc. But, more and more, they will be further aggravated by the catastrophic plunge of the capitalist economy into its mortal crisis.
The evolution of the economic crisis
9) The year 1992 was characterized by a considerable aggravation of the situation of the world economy. In particular, the open recession generalized reaching countries that had been spared the first time round, such as France, and among the most solid as Germany and even Japan. If Clinton's election represented the continuance, and the strengthening, of the policy of the first world power on the imperialist arena, it symbolizes the end of a whole period in the evolution of the crisis and of the bourgeoisie's policies in order to face up to it. It takes note of the definitive weakness of "Reaganomics" which had aroused the most insane hopes in the ranks of the dominant class and numerous illusions among the proletariat. Today, in bourgeois language, there no longer remains the least reference to the mythical virtues of "deregulation" and "less state". Even politicians belonging to the forces who were made the apostles of "Reaganomics", such as Major in Great Britain, admit, faced with the accumulation of difficulties in the economy, the necessity for "more state" in it.
10) The "Reagan years", prolonged by the "Bush years", in no way represented an inversion of the historic tendency, specific to decadent capitalism, of the reinforcement of state capitalism. During this period, measures such as the massive increase of military spending, the rescue of the Savings and Loans by the Federal Reserve (which increased state spending by $1000 billion dollars) or the voluntary lowering of interest rates below the rate of inflation, have represented a significant growth in the intervention of the state in the economy of the first world power. In fact, whatever the ideological themes used, whatever the modalities, the bourgeoisie can never, in the period of decadence, renounce calling on the state to bring together something of an economy which is tending to break apart, in order to try to cheat its capitalist laws (and only the state can do this, notably by using the printing press. However, with:
- the new aggravation of the world crisis;
- the critical level reached by the dilapidation of certain crucial sectors of the American economy (health, education, infrastructure, equipment, research...) encouraged by the frantic "liberal" policy of Reagan and Co;
- the surrealist explosion of speculation to the detriment of productive investments encouraged by "Reaganomics".
The Federal State cannot escape a much more open intervention, an uncovered face, in this economy. In this sense, the significance of the arrival of the Democrat Clinton to the head of the American executive must not be reduced to merely ideological imperatives. These imperatives are not negligible, notably with a view to encouraging a greater adherence by the whole population of the United States to its imperialist policy. But, much more fundamental, the Clinton "New Deal" signals the necessity of a significant reorientation of this bourgeoisie's policy, a reorientation that Bush, too closely linked to the preceding policy, was badly placed to open up.
11) This political reorientation, contrary to the promises of Clinton the candidate, will not call into question the degradation of working class living conditions, that is qualified as "middle class" for the purposes of propaganda. Hundreds of billions of dollars of savings announced by Clinton at the end of February ‘93, represent a considerable growth of austerity designed to relieve the enormous Federal deficit and improve US competivity on the world market. However, this policy comes up against insuperable limits. The reduction of the budget deficit, if it is indeed carried out, will only accentuate the tendencies of the slowing down of the economy which has been doped by the same deficit for almost a decade. Such a slowing down, by reducing fiscal receipts (despite the increase seen in imports) will again lead to the aggravation of this deficit. Thus, whatever the measures applied, the American bourgeoisie will confront an impasse; instead of a recovery of the economy and a reduction of its debt (and particularly that of the state) it is condemned, to a deadline which cannot be deferred for long, to a new slowing down of the economy and to an irreversible increase in debt.
12) The impasse in which the American economy is placed only expresses that of the whole of the world economy. Every country is increasingly squeezed in a vice whose jaws are the fall of production and the explosion of debt (particularly that of the state). It's the striking manifestation of the irreversible crisis of overproduction into which the capitalist mode of production has sunk for more than two decades. Successively, the explosion of debt in the Third World, after the world recession of 73-74, then the explosion of American debt (as much internal as external), after that of 81-82, allowed the world economy to limit the direct expressions, and above all to mask the reality of this overproduction. Today, the draconian measures that the US proposes to apply, signal the definitive scrapping of the American "locomotive" which had pulled the world economy during the 1980's. The internal market of the United States is closing up more and more, and in an irreversible fashion. And if it is not thanks to a better competitivity of US-made goods, it will be through the unprecedented growth of protectionism, of which Clinton, since his arrival, has given a foretaste (increase in laws on agricultural products, steel, aircraft, closure of public markets...). Thus, the only perspective for the world market is that of an irreparable and growing contraction, all the more so as it is confronted with a catastrophic crisis of credit symbolized by ever more numerous bankruptcies in banking: constantly and deliriously abused by endebtment, the international financial system is near to explosion, an explosion which will lead to bringing about, in an apocalyptic fashion, the collapse of the markets and of production.
13) Another factor aggravating the state of the world economy is the growing chaos developing in international relations. When the world lived under the two imperialist giants, the necessary discipline that the allies had to respect within each of the blocs was expressed not only on the military and diplomatic, but also on the economic level. In the case of the Western bloc, it is through structures such as the OECD, the IMF, the G7 that the allies, who were at the same time the main advanced countries, established, under the aegis of their US chief, a coordination of their economic policies and a modus-vivendi in order to contain their commercial rivalries. Today, the disappearance of the Western bloc, following the collapse of that in the East, has dealt a decisive blow to this coordination (even if the old structures still survive) and leaves the field clear for the exacerbation of "every man for himself" in economic relations. Concretely, commercial wars can only be unleashed still more, aggravating the difficulties and instability of the world economy. This can be seen in the present paralysis in the GATT negotiations. Officially these have the aim of limiting protectionism between the "partners" so as to encourage world trade and thus the production of different national economies. The fact that these negotiations have become a free-for-all, where imperialist antagonisms are superimposed on simple commercial rivalries, can only provoke the inverse effect: a still greater disorganization of these exchanges, growing difficulties for the national economies.
14) Thus, coming into the last decade of the century, the gravity of the crisis has reached a qualitatively superior degree to anything capitalism has known up to now. The financial system moves closer to the edge of the precipice with the permanent and growing risk of being dashed against the rocks. The commercial war which will be unleashed will be at a level never seen. Capitalism cannot find any new "locomotive" to replace the American locomotive which is henceforth out of action. In particular, the colossal markets which the old countries run by the Stalinist regimes were supposed to represent only existed in the imagination of some sectors of the dominant class (and also in that of some groups of the proletarian milieu). The hopeless dilapidation of these economies, the bottomless pit that they represent for any investment, the political convulsions which excite the dominant class and which will even more deepen the economic catastrophe, all these elements indicate that they about to plunge into a situation like that of the Third World, that far from constituting a second wind for the economies of the most developed countries, they have become a growing millstone for them. Finally, if in the more developed economies, inflation has some chance of being contained, as is the case up to now, that does not at all mean any overcoming of the economic difficulties that underlie it. On the contrary, it is an expression of the dramatic reduction of the markets which exerts a powerful downward pressure on the price of goods. The perspective for the world economy is thus a growing fall of production with the wastage of a yet more important part of invested capital (bankruptcies, industrial desertification, etc) and a drastic reduction of variable capital, which signifies for the working class, outside of the growing attacks against wages, massive job losses, an unprecedented growth of unemployment.
The perspective of class combat
15) The capitalist attacks of every order which are unleashed today, and which can only worsen, hit a proletariat which has been palpably weakened during the course of the last three years, a weakening which has affected its consciousness as much as its combativity.
It is the collapse of the Stalinist regimes of Europe and the dislocation of the whole of the Eastern bloc at the end of 89, which has constituted the essential factor in the reflux of the proletariat's consciousness. The identification, by all sectors of the bourgeoisie for half a century, of these regimes with "socialism", the fact that these regimes did not fall under the blows of the class struggle but following an implosion of their economy, has allowed the bourgeoisie to use massive campaigns on "the death of communism", on the "definitive victory of liberal and democratic capitalism", on the perspective of a "new world order" made of peace, prosperity and the respect for Law. Although the vast majority of the proletariat in the great industrial concentrations have for a long time ceased to have any illusions in the so-called "socialist paradises", the inglorious disappearance of the Stalinist regimes has nevertheless dealt a blow to the idea that there could ever be anything else than the capitalist system, that the action of the proletariat could lead to an alternative to this system. Such a blow to consciousness was still more aggravated by the explosion of the USSR, following the failed coup of 1991, hitting the country which had been the theatre of the proletarian revolution at the beginning of the century.
On the other hand, the Gulf crisis, from Summer 90, operation "Desert Storm" at the beginning of 91, engendered a profound sentiment of impotence among workers who felt themselves totally incapable of acting, or of weighing on events whose gravity they were conscious of, but which remained the exclusive province of "those on high". This feeling powerfully contributed to a weakening of workers' combativity in a context where this combativity had already been altered, although to a lesser extent, by events in the East the previous year. And this weakening of combativity was yet further aggravated by the explosion of the USSR two years after the collapse of its bloc and by the contemporary development of confrontations in ex-Yugoslavia.
16) Events which rushed along after the collapse of the Eastern bloc, by raising a whole series of questions and contradictions to the bourgeoisie's campaigns of 1989, contributed to undermining a part of the mystifications in which the working class had been plunged. Thus, the crisis and the Gulf War began to deal some decisive blows to illusions on the installation of an "era of peace" that Bush had announced at the time of the collapse of the rival imperialism from the east. At the same time, the barbaric behavior of the "great democracy" of America and its acolytes, the massacres of Iraqi soldiers and the civilian population helped to unmask the lies on the "superiority" of democracy, on the victory of the "right of nations", and of the "rights of man". Lastly, the catastrophic aggravation of the crisis, the open recession, bankruptcies, losses registered by companies considered the most prosperous, massive job losses in every sector and particularly in these companies, the inexorable growth of unemployment, all these expressions of the capitalist economy's insurmountable contradictions are about to settle the hash of the lies about the "prosperity" of the capitalist system, its capacity to overcome the difficulties which had engulfed its so-called "socialist" rival. The working class has not yet digested all of the blows against its consciousness in the preceding period. In particular, the idea that there could be an alternative to capitalism does not automatically flow from the growing fact of the weakness of this system and can very well give rise to despair. But, within the class, conditions for a rejection of bourgeois lies, of a profound questioning, are about to develop.
17) This reflection in the working class takes place at a time where the accumulation of capitalist attacks and their growing brutality obliges it to shake off the torpor that has overcome it for several years. In turn:
- the explosion of workers' combativity in Italy during Autumn 92 (a combativity which has never been completely extinguished since);
- to a lesser degree but significant, the massive demonstrations of workers in Britain during the same period, after the announcement of many mine closures;
- the combativity expressed by the proletariat of Germany at the end of the winter following massive job cuts, notably in what constitutes one of the symbols of industrial capitalism, the Ruhr;
- other signs of workers' combativity, on a smaller scale, but which are multiplying in several countries of Europe faced with more and more draconian austerity plans.
All this shows that the proletariat is about to unclamp itself from the vice that has been gripping it since the beginning of the 90s, that it is freeing itself from the paralysis which had forced it to submit to the attacks of the bourgeoisie from this time without reaction. Thus, the present situation is fundamentally different from that at the preceding ICC Congress, which stated that "... the apparatus of the left of the bourgeoisie has already tried for several months to launch movements of premature struggle so as to hold back this reflection (within the proletariat) and to spread additional confusion in workers' ranks". In particular, the ambiance of impotence which predominated among the majority of workers, and which helped the bourgeoisie's maneuvers aiming to provoke minority struggles destined to drown in isolation, tends to give way more and more to a will to cross swords with the bourgeoisie, to reply with determination to its attacks.
18) The proletariat of the main industrialized countries is about to raise its head, confirming what the ICC has never ceased to affirm: "the fact that the working class still holds the key to the future within its hands" (Resolution to the 9th ICC Congress), and which it announced with confidence: "...it is because the historic course has not been overturned, because the bourgeoisie has not succeeded with its multiple campaigns and maneuvers in inflicting a decisive defeat on the class of the advanced countries and rallying them behind the national banner, that the reflux submitted to by the class, as much at the level of its consciousness as of its combativity, will necessarily be overcome". (Resolution of 29.3.92, International Review 70). However, this recovery of class combat will be difficult. The first attempts made by the proletariat since Autumn 92 show that it still suffers from the weight of the reflux. Largely, the experience, the lessons acquired during the struggles of the 80s, have not yet been reappropriated by the great majority of workers. On the other hand the bourgeoisie, from now, shows that it has drawn the lessons of preceding combats:
- by organizing, for some time, a whole series of campaigns designed to make the workers lose their class identity, particularly the anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigns, as well as others aimed at brain-washing them with nationalism;
- by using the unions to take the lead in any expressions of combativity;
- by radicalizing the language of these organs flanking the working class;
- by straightaway giving, wherever it's necessary as in Italy, a leading role to rank-and-file unionism;
- in some countries, by organizing or preparing the departure of "socialist" parties from government, the better to play the card of the left in opposition;
- by avoiding, thanks to international planning of its attacks, a simultaneous development of workers struggles in different countries;
- by organizing a systematic black-out on struggles.
Moreover, the bourgeoisie has shown itself capable of using the reflux in class consciousness to introduce false demands and objectives into the struggle (union rights, work sharing, defense of the company, etc).
19) More generally, it is still a long road that the proletariat must travel before it is capable of affirming its revolutionary perspective. It will have to spring all the usual traps that all the forces of the bourgeoisie will put under its feet. At the same time, it will confront all the poison of the decomposition of capitalism which penetrates the workers' ranks, and which the dominant class (whose political difficulties linked to decomposition do not affect its ability to maneuver against its mortal enemy) will cynically use:
- atomization, the "resourceful" individual, the "look after number one" spirit, which tends to undermine workers' solidarity and class identity and which, even in moments of combativity, will encourage corporatism;
- despair, the lack of perspective will continue to weigh, even if the bourgeoisie cannot again use an occasion like the collapse of Stalinism;
- the process of lumpenisation as a result of massive and long-term unemployment's tendency to cut many workers, especially the young, off from their class;
- the growth of xenophobia, including among important sectors, greatly facilitating, in exchange, the anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns, which are aimed both at dividing the working class, and of drawing it into defense of the democratic state;
- urban riots, whether spontaneous or deliberately provoked (like those in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992), which the bourgeoisie will use to try to draw the proletariat off its class terrain;
- the different manifestations of the rotting of the dominant class, the corruption and gangsterism of its political apparatus, which if it undermines it credibility in the workers' eyes, at the same time favorizes campaigns of diversion in favor of a "clean" (or "green") state;
- the display of all the barbarity into which not only the Third World is plunging but also a part of Europe, like ex-Yugoslavia, which is a godsend for all the "humanitarian" campaigns aiming to make the workers feel guilty and accept the degradation of their own living conditions, but equally to justify the imperialist intrigues of the great powers.
20) This last aspect of the situation shows the complexity of the question of war as a factor in proletarian consciousness. This complexity has already been amply analyzed by communist organizations, and notably by the ICC, in the past. In the main, it consists of the fact that, while imperialist war constitutes one of the major manifestations of the decadence of capitalism, symbolizing in particular the absurdity of a system in agony and indicating the necessity of overthrowing it, its impact on the working class' consciousness depends strictly on the circumstances in which it breaks out. Thus the Gulf War, two years ago, brought to the workers of the advanced countries (which were all practically involved in this war, directly or indirectly) a serious contribution to overcoming the illusions spread by the bourgeoisie the year before, and thus helped to clarify consciousness. On the other hand, the war in ex-Yugoslavia has contributed not at all to the clarification of consciousness in the proletariat, which is confirmed by the fact that the bourgeoisie has not felt the need to organize pacifist demonstrations whereas several advanced countries (as France and Britain) already have thousands of men on the ground. And the same is true for the massive US police operation in Somalia. It seems that, when the sordid game of imperialism can conceal itself behind "humanitarian" screens, in other words it is able to present its military interventions as designed to relieve humanity from the calamities resulting from capitalist decomposition, it cannot, in the present period, be used by the great masses of workers in order to strengthen their consciousness and their class determination. However, the bourgeoisie will not always be able to hide the face of its imperialist war behind the mask of "fine sentiments". The ineluctable aggravation of the antagonisms between the great powers, by forcing them to make, even with the absence of the "humanitarian" pretext, more and more direct, massive and bloody interventions (which, in the final account, constitutes one of the major characteristics of the whole period of decadent capitalism) will tend to open the eyes of the workers to what is really at stake in our epoch. The same is true for war as for other expressions of the capitalist system's historic impasse: when they spring specifically from the decomposition of this system, they appear today as an obstacle to consciousness in the class; it is only as a general expression of the whole of decadence that they can constitute a positive element in this consciousness. And this potentiality will tend to become more and more of a reality inasmuch as the gravity of the crisis and the attacks of the bourgeoisie, as well as the development of workers' struggles, will permit the proletarian masses to identify the link between the economic impasse of capitalism and its plunge into barbaric warfare.
21) Thus, the evidence of the mortal crisis of the capitalist mode of production, the prime manifestation of its decadence, the terrible consequences that it will have for all sectors of the working class, the necessity for the latter to develop, against these consequences, the struggles in which it is once more engaging, will constitute a powerful factor in the development of consciousness. The aggravation of the crisis will more and more show that it is not the result of "bad management", that the "virtuous" bourgeoisie and the "clean" states are as incapable as the others of overcoming it, that they express the mortal impasse of the whole of capitalism. The massive deployment of workers' combats will constitute a powerful antidote against the noxious effects of decomposition, allowing the progressive surmounting, through the class solidarity that these combats imply, of atomization, "every man for himself" and all the divisions which weigh on the proletariat; between categories, branches of industry, between immigrants and indigenous workers, between the unemployed and workers with jobs. In particular, although the weight of decomposition has prevented the unemployed from entering the struggle (except in a punctual way) during the past decade, and contrary to the 30s, and while they will not be able to play a vanguard role comparable to that of the soldiers in Russia in 1917 as we had envisaged, the massive development of proletarian struggles will make it possible for them, notably in demonstrations on the street, to rejoin the general combat of their class, all the more so in that the numbers of unemployed who already have an experience of associated labor and of struggle at the workplace, can only grow. More generally, if unemployment is not a specific problem of those without work but rather a real question affecting and concerning all of the working class, notably as a clear and tragic expression of the historic weakness of capitalism, it is this same combat to come that will allow the proletariat to become fully conscious of it.
22) It is also, and fundamentally, through this combat against incessant attacks on its living conditions that the proletariat will have to overcome all the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism, which has dealt such a blow to its perception of a perspective, its consciousness that there exists a revolutionary alternative to moribund capitalism. This combat "will give a new confidence to the working class, reminding it that it already constitutes a considerable force in society and will allow a growing mass of workers to turn once again towards the perspective of overthrowing capitalism" (Resolution of 29.3.92). And the more this perspective is present in workers' consciousness, the more the class will acquire the means to thwart the traps of the bourgeoisie, in order to develop its struggles fully, to take them effectively in hand, spread and generalize them. In order to develop this perspective, the class must not only recover from the disorientation it has suffered during the recent period, and reappropriate the lesson of the struggles fought during the 1980's; it must also rebuild the historic link with its communist traditions. The central importance of this development of consciousness can only emphasize the immense responsibility that rests on today's revolutionary minorities. It is the vital precondition for the definitive success of the class' combat.
 It seems that once again imperialist antagonisms do not automatically overlap with commercial rivalries, even if, with the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the world imperialist map today is closer than the preceding one to the map of these rivalries, which allows a country like the United States to utilize, notably in the GATT negotiations, its economic and commercial power as an instrument of blackmail against its ex-allies. Likewise, the EEC could be both an instrument of the imperialist bloc dominated by the American power while favorizing commercial competition against the latter, countries as Britain and Holland can very well base themselves on European Union in order to validate their commercial interests faced with this power while representing its imperialist interests in Europe.