In April 1996 the section in France of the International Communist Current held its 12th Congress. This was the congress of a territorial section of our international organisation, but the ICC had decided to invest it with a significance beyond that of the merely territorial framework, making it a kind of extraordinary international congress.
The congress was held a few months after we had seen in France a highly significant episode in the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie: the strikes inthepublicsectorattheendof1995, which were the result of an international manoeuvre by the bourgeoisie aimed at the entire proletariat of the industrialised countries. But these events only constituted one aspect of the general offensive that the bourgeoisie is waging against the working class and its organisations. And it is precisely as a vital moment in the arming of the communist organisation against the different aspects of this offensive that the 12th Congress of the section in France assumes all its importance.
An unprecedented attack by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat
The bourgeoisie is forced to accompany its economic attack against the working class with a political attack. As we saw with the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie at the end of 1995, this attack has both short and medium term aims: its objective is to weaken the proletariat in advance of the struggles which it will have to wage in the years ahead. However, it would be dangerously underestimating the ruling class if we thought that this attack didn't go further than this.
The most lucid sectors of the ruling class knew very well that the impact of the immense campaigns on the "death of communism" and the "definitive victory of capitalism" could not last forever, that it would inevitably be shattered by the aggravation of the capitalist crisis and the consequent revival of workers' struggles. This is why it has had to take precautions for the future.
"... We should underline the recent change in some of the language used by the ruling class. Whereas the first years after the collapse of the eastern bloc were dominated by campaigns around the theme of the "death of communism" and the "impossibility of revolution ", we are now seeing a certain return to fashion of talk about "marxism", "revolution" and "communism" - on the part of the leftists, obviously, but not only them" (Resolution on the International Situation, 11th ICC Congress).
Before a growing number of workers recognise marxism as the theory of the proletarian struggle for emancipation, it is necessary to elaborate and disseminate a false marxism designed to pollute and derail the whole process through which the working class becomes conscious of itself.
But this offensive doesn't end there. It is also necessary to discredit the left communist current, which at the time of the degeneration and death of the Communist International was the real defender of the communist principles which had presided over the October 1917 revolution. Thus, with the publication of the archives of Vercesi, the main animator of the Italian Left Fraction, the academics of Brussels University have presented this current as being anti-fascist, ie the very antithesis of what it really was. The most fundamental issue is to compromise the future of the left communist current, ie the only one which works towards the foundation of the communist party which the proletariat will need in order to carry through its revolution.
And this attack against the communist left isn't limited to the university. The "specialists" of the ruling class are quite aware of the danger represented by the groups of the proletarian political milieu, precisely the ones who claim continuity with the communist left. Obviously, this danger is not an immediate one. Continuing to suffer the effects of the terrible counter-revolution which fell on the proletariat at the end of the 1920s, and which lasted until the middle of the 1960s, the communist left is still marked both by a numerical weakness and by its low impact on the working class as a whole. A weakness that is further exacerbated by the dispersion into several currents (ICC, IBRP, the multiple "Parties" of the Bordigist current). But it would be singularly naive to think that the ruling class and its specialised institutions are not using, right now, all possible means to prevent this current from strengthening itself when the proletariat develops its consciousness, with the ultimate aim of liquidating it altogether. One of these means is obviously police repression. But in the context of the "democracies" which govern the industrialised countries, this is an instrument that the bourgeoisie uses very sparingly, in order to avoid unmasking itself. There is also infiltration by specialist organs of the capitalist state, with the aim of informing the latter and above all of destroying communist organisations from the inside. Thus, in 1981, the ICC unmasked the individual Chenier, whose activities helped to exacerbate the crisis the ICC was going through at the time and to provoke the loss of a number of militants. Finally, and above all, our organisation has exposed the particular role played today by the parasitic milieu as an instrument for the bourgeoisie's attack on the proletarian political milieu.
The attack by parasitism against the proletarian political milieu and against the ICC
This is not a new concern for our organisation. Thus, just after our 11th Congress, one year ago, we wrote:
"It is preferable for the bourgeoisie to erect a wall of silence around the positions and even the existence of revolutionary organisations. This is why the work of denigrating them, and sabotaging their intervention, is undertaken by a whole series of groups and parasitic elements whose function is to drive away individuals who are coming towards class positions, to disgust them with any participation in the difficult task of developing a proletarian political milieu.
All the communist groups have been subjected to the attacks of parasitism, but the latter has paid particular attention to the ICC, because it is today the most important organisation in the proletarian milieu" (International Review 82).
It was thus on the basis of a whole series of attacks by parasitism on the proletarian political milieu and the ICC in particular that the Congress discussed and adopted a resolution from which we will cite certain extracts:
"The notion of political parasitism is not an innovation of the ICC. It belongs to the history of the workers' movement. Thus, in the struggle of the General Council of the International Workingmen's Association, Marx described Bakunin's Alliance as "parasitic". The parasitic groups do not belong to the proletarian political milieu. In no sense are they an expression of the effort of the class to become conscious. On the contrary, they represent an attempt to abort this effort. In this sense their activity completes the work of the forces of the bourgeoisie in sabotaging the intervention of revolutionary organisations within the class.
What animated the activity and determines the existence of these groups is not at all the defence of the class principles of the proletariat, but at best the spirit of the little sect or "circle of friends", the affirmation of individualism and individuality vis-a-vis the proletarian political milieu. The point of departure of the parasitic approach, which can lead to the formation of a parasitic group, is based on personal scores, resentments, frustrations and other squalid concerns typical of the ideology of the decomposing and futureless petty bourgeoisie. In this sense, what characterises a parasitic group is not the defence of a programmatic platform but essentially a political attitude to revolutionary organisations, and more particularly towards the main pole of regroupment, the ICC.
The function of parasitism is thus:
- to reinforce confusions in the class;
- to develop attacks on marxist organisations with a view to the destruction of the proletarian political milieu;
- to fuel the bourgeoisie's campaigns against communism by spreading the idea that any marxist organisation that lays claim to Lenin's combat for the party is by nature condemned to Stalinist degeneration;
- to ridicule the organisational principles of the proletariat by inoculating the idea that the intransigent defence of these positions can only lead to sectarianism.
All these themes, developed in the offensive of parasitism against the ICC, are a confirmation of the active contribution by the parasitic groups to the bourgeois state's attack on marxism since the collapse of the eastern bloc. They are there to sabotage the efforts of the proletariat to rediscover its revolutionary perspective. In this sense, the parasitic groups are a highly favourable soil for the manipulations of the state".
This doesn't mean that the parasitic groups are simple organs of the capitalist state, as are for example the leftist groups who defend a capitalist programme. Similarly it is certain that most of the elements of the parasitic milieu, whether organised or informal, have no direct link with the organs of the state. But bearing in mind the approach which animates this milieu, the organisational and political laxity which characterises it, the friendship networks that run through it, its predilection for all kinds of intrigues, nothing could be easier than for a few specialists to infiltrate it and guide it in the direction which most favours the action of the bourgeoisie against the communist organisations.
The organisational arming of the ICC
The 12th Congress of the section in France also had to make a balance sheet, one year after the international congress, of its capacity to put into practice the perspectives that the latter had drawn out. We will be brief on this point because, despite all its importance, it was secondary in relation to what has been developed above, and to a large extent subordinated to the latter. The resolution adopted by this Congress says:
" ... the 11th Congress affirmed that the ICC is much stronger than it was at its previous congress, that it is incomparably better armed to confront its responsibilities faced with future upsurges of the class, even if, obviously, it is still in a state of convalescence" (point 11).
"This does not mean that the combat that we have waged now has to end... The ICC must carry it on through being vigilant at all times, through its determination to identify each weakness and deal with it without delay ... In reality, the history of the workers' movement, including that of the ICC, teaches us, and the debate has amply confirmed this, that the combat for the defence of the organisation is permanent and without respite" (point 13).
All this has been fully confirmed in the past year for our section in France. Thus, faced with an event as important as the strikes at the end of 95, it was immediately able to identify the trap which the bourgeoisie had set for the working class and to intervene actively in the class.
The 12th Congress of our section in France has once again shown how the combat for the defence of the organisation is a long term combat, a permanent fight which cannot be relaxed. But for revolutionaries, difficulty is not a factor of demoralisation. On the contrary. As the vanguard of a class which draws from the daily struggles it wages against the capitalist enemy the strength that will allow it to change the world, communists can only strengthen their own conviction, their own determination, through the struggle against the attacks of the enemy class, such as we are seeing today, and against the difficulties
they encounter in their activity.
12th Congress of Revolution Intemationale
Resolution on the International Situation
1) In the year since the 11th ICC Congress, the state of the world economy has fully confirmed the perspective put forward at the Congress: the bourgeoisie's boasted "recovery" was no "end of the tunnel" for the capitalist economy, but only a moment in its plunge into a crisis without end. The 11th Congress emphasized that one of the main sources of this "recovery" - which we described at the time as a 'jobless recovery" - was a headlong flight into debt, which could only lead to new convulsions in the financial world, and a new dive into open recession. These financial convulsions - dramatic problems in the banking sector, and a spectacular collapse in the dollar - have been affecting capitalism since the beginning of autumn 1995, and have been merely the precursors of a new fall in the growth rates of most of the industrialised countries since the beginning of winter, with even more gloomy forecasts for 1996.
Irreversible deepening of the economic crisis
2) One of the most striking illustrations of the world economy's worsening state, is the difficult situation of the greatest power on the European continent. Germany today is confronted with the worst unemployment (4 million) since World War II, hitting not just the East, but spreading to the more "prosperous" Western regions. It is symbolic of the German economy's unprecedented difficulties that Daimler, one of its leading companies, has just announced that its shareholders will receive no dividends: Daimler has just suffered its first losses (and substantial ones at that) since the war. This has put an end to one of the myths so complacently put about by the bourgeoisie (and believed by some groups in the proletarian milieu) following the Eastern bloc's collapse and the reunification of Germany: the myth of a recovery fuelled by the reconstruction of the backward Eastern regions. As the ICC said, against the reigning euphoria of the time, it was impossible for the Eastern bloc countries emerging from the Stalinist variety of state capitalism to provide any breath of oxygen for the world economy. More particularly, the reconstruction of East Germany demanded a gigantic capital investment. Although this raised the German economy's growth rates for a few years, it was only at the cost of massive debt, which could only lead to an abrupt slowdown, mirroring the capitalist economy as a whole.
3) The plunge into open recession by Germany, which model of economic rectitude, is all the more significant of the depth of the crisis today, in that it is accompanied by the collapse of another "model": Japan's record-breaking dynamism and growth rates. Whereas Japan's growth rates ran at about 4-5% throughout the 80s, they have not risen above 1% since 1992. Five government recovery plans have had no effect: growth rates have continued to fall, reaching 0.3% in 1995. And not only have the recovery plans failed to improve the situation, the debt on which they are based has only made it worse. As we have said for a long time, the "remedies" of the capitalist economy must eventually worsen the disease and kill the patient a little more. The Japanese economy today is facing a mountain of$460 billion of bad debt, as a result of the frenzied speculation of the late 80s and early 90s. This is all the more catastrophic, not just for the world's second economic power but for the entire world economy, in that Japan constitutes the world's savings bank, providing 50% of the OECD countries' finance capital.
4) As for the world's greatest power, whose results last year were less sombre than those of its immediate followers, growth rates for 1996 are forecast at 2%, a clear decline from the rate of the previous year. For example, the 40,000 redundancies announced by ATT - the symbol of one of the economy's leading sectors, telecommunications - signify the American economy's worsening condition. And if, for the moment, the US is managing better than its rivals, this is only thanks to unprecedentedly brutal attacks against the workers (many of whom are forced to hold down two jobs to survive), and to using the advantages conferred by its special status as world super-power: financial, monetary, diplomatic and military pressure all put to the service of the trade war it is waging against its competitors.
Concretely, in a capitalist world stifled by generalised over-production, the strongest can only breathe better at the expense of its rivals: the German and Japanese bourgeoisies are the first to make this bitter observation. And this trade war is getting worse, since the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the disappearance of the Western bloc which inevitably followed, have meant that the coordination established for years between the countries of the Western bloc is more and more giving way to the rule of "look after number one", which can only exacerbate capitalism's convulsions.
The logic of "every man for himself" sharpens imperialist rivalries
5) "Every man for himself': this rule finds its most spectacular expression in the field of imperialist antagonisms. At the very moment of the Eastern bloc's collapse, the ICC denounced the bourgeoisie's false prophecies of a "new world order" of peace and prosperity. The division of the world into two blocs was not the cause of imperialist antagonisms, but their consequence, one of the means adopted by the different countries of the planet to confront them. Far from putting an end to antagonisms between states, and military confrontations, the disappearance of the bloc system that had emerged from World War II unleashed antagonisms which the bloc system had previously kept within certain limits. Although this put on the historical agenda the formation of new imperialist blocs - a perspective which could not take immediate effect given the relative weakness of the new potential bloc leader, Germany, in relation to the world's greatest power - in the immediate it led to an explosion of "look after number one", in an imperialist landscape marked by an upheaval of alliances unprecedented since the beginning of the century. The international situation has since only confirmed this perspective. And while the tendency towards the formation of new blocs appeared clearly at the beginning of the 1990s, it has since been replaced by the rule of "look after number one", one of the most significant expressions of capitalist society's general decomposition.
6) The ICC's 11th Congress showed that the effect of an unbridled policy of "look after number one" was "a considerable weakening, even a crisis, of American world leadership", whose most striking expressions were the estrangement between the US and Britain - the world's two most faithful allies since the beginning of the century - and the fact that the world's greatest power was virtually absent from the then most important zone of imperialist conflict, Yugoslavia. Since then, the estrangement between the two Anglo-Saxon powers has not healed - far from it. By contrast, the US has spectacularly improved its position in ex-Yugoslavia. Since last summer, and its support for the Croat offensive in the Krajina, the US has succeeded in radically reversing the situation in its favour. Thanks to its military superiority - its main means of action internationally - the US has completely eclipsed the British and French dominance in the region, which the two powers had exercised for years though UNPROFOR, and were proposing to strengthen with the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF). The USA's return in strength was not merely a response to the RRF. Whereas the Franco-British tandem's only ally on the spot was Serbia, the USA has succeeded today in bringing onto its side, willingly or not, not only their original Muslim allies, but also the "friends" of Germany, the Croats, and the "enemies" of yesterday, the Belgrade Serbs, thanks to the latter's divorce from the Pale Serbs.
7) The USA's recovery of the initiative is not limited to the situation in ex-Yugoslavia, but also extends to its traditional zones of hegemony, such as the Middle East, and to the Far East. The Sharm El Sheik summit on terrorism in Israel was thus a means for Uncle Sam to remind everybody who is the godfather in the region. The USA's firmness in the defence of Taiwan against China's posturing was the clearest warning to the latter's imperialist ambitions, as well as those of Japan (the resolution of the 11th International Congress already highlighted both powers' efforts at rearmament). Faced with this powerful American comeback, the second fiddles France and Britain have no choice but to keep a low profile. They came reluctantly to the Sharm El Sheik "Clinton show". And it was to avoid being totally side-lined that they reassigned their troops from UNPROFOR to I-FOR, which is a creature under the control of the USA, just as France was forced to take part in "Desert Storm" in 1990-91, despite being fundamentally opposed to it. Similarly, the rapprochement between the world's greatest power and its main rival, Germany, over ex-Yugoslavia has been principally to the benefit of the former. And although Germany's Croatian ally has conquered positions that it has coveted since independence, this apparent success for Germany has been largely thanks to the US, which is an uncomfortable position for an imperialist power, especially when it is posing as a candidate to the leadership of a new bloc. Like France and Britain, and in particular through its participation in I-FOR, Germany is thus obliged to submit to the conditions imposed by the USA.
Resistance to American leadership increases world chaos
8) The return to the limelight of the world's greatest power does not mean that it has definitively overcome the threat to its leadership. This threat, as we emphasized at our last international congress, springs essentially from the fact that today, there no longer exists the essential precondition for any real solidity and stability in alliances between bourgeois states in the imperialist arena: the existence of a common enemy threatening their security. The powers of the ex-Western bloc may be forced, at one time or another, to submit to Washington's diktats, but it is out of the question for them to remain faithful on a durable basis. On the contrary, they will seize any opportunity to sabotage the orientations and dispositions imposed by the USA. So the fact that Britain has been forced to toe the US line in ex-Yugoslavia has in no way re-established the former's allegiance to its transatlantic big brother. This is why the latter has renewed its pressure over the Irish question, notably by foisting the responsibility for the renewed IRA bombing campaign (which it is probably behind) onto London. This is why Chirac's recent journey to Beirut represents France's attempt to go poaching in America's Middle Eastern hunting grounds, after sponsoring the Barcelona conference designed to check US progress in the Mediterranean. In fact, the recent evolution of imperialist relations demonstrates the complete upheaval of alliances, their utter instability, following the end of the cold war bloc system. Old "friendships" of 40 or even 80 years' standing are breaking up. There is a deep rift between London and Washington. Similarly, every day that passes aggravates the differences between France and Germany, in other words the two leading architects of the European edifice.
9) Concerning these last aspects, it is important to emphasize the driving forces behind these imperialist alliances. The new Entente Cordiale between France and Britain can only be based on the estrangement between Washington and London on the one hand, and between Paris and Berlin on the other. The fact that France and Britain are both second-rate, historically declining, powers of essentially equal strength, confronted by the pressure of the two great powers - USA and Germany - confers a certain solidity on this new Entente Cordiale. This is all the more true in that there exists within Europe a fundamental, insurmountable antagonism between Britain and Germany, whereas despite three wars, there has been room for long periods of "friendship" between the latter and France. Indeed, some sectors of the French bourgeoisie rallied to the German alliance even during World War II. However, the rising power of German imperialism in recent years cannot help but revive the French bourgeoisie's old fears of its too powerful neighbour. Even without a complete break between Paris and Berlin, all this leads to a profound degradation in Franco-German relations. Even if France would like to play the umpire between its two great neighbours, such an alliance of the three is in fact impossible. In this sense, any real construction of a political union in Europe is a utopia, and can never be anything but a domain of mystification. The impotence of European institutions, illustrated in ex-Yugoslavia, where it gave the USA the chance to make its comeback in the region, will continue to appear in the future. America will continue to stir up the ant heap, as it did in the Balkans, to prevent any gathering of discontent directed against it. More generally, and as the ICC has said for a long time, the imperialist scene can only be marked by growing instability, with advances and retreats by the USA, and above all the continued and growing use of brute force, the clash of arms, and horrible massacres.
Bourgeois offensive against renewed class struggle
10) As we said in the resolution of the last International Congress, "More than ever, the struggle of the proletariat remains the only hope for the future of human society" (Point 14). And this last year has clearly illustrated the words of this resolution:
"Particularly since 1992, [the workers'] struggles have been testimony to the proletariat's capacity to get back onto the path of struggle, thus confirming that the historic course has not been overturned. They are also testimony to the enormous difficulties which it is encountering on this path, owing to the breadth and depth of the reflux [following the collapse of the stalinist regimes, the accompanying ideological campaigns, and everything that has followed]. The workers' struggles are developing in a jagged, sinuous manner, full of advances and retreats" (ibid). "These obstacles have allowed the unions to get their grip on the workers' combativity, channelling them towards "actions" entirelv under union control. However, the unions' present manoeuvres have also, and above all, a preventative aim: that of strengthening their hold on the workers before the latter deploy far more their combativity, which will necessarily result from their growing anger faced with the increasingly brutal attacks demanded by the crisis" (Point 17).
The French social movements of late 1995: a bourgeois manoeuvre against the international proletariat
The strikes in France at the end of autumn 1995 have thoroughly confirmed this perspective: " ... to prevent the working class from entering the combat with its own weapons, the bourgeoisie has taken the lead, and has pushed the workers into a premature struggle, completely under the control of the unions. It has not left the workers time to mobilise at their own rhythm and with their own methods" (International Review no.84). They have also confirmed that, as we have already pointed out, the bourgeoisie organises and carries out its actions against the working class at an international level:
- through the unprecedented media coverage of these strikes (whereas social movements which really worried the bourgeoisie have suffered from a total media blackout in other countries); a media coverage which tried in particular to exploit the reference to May 68, both to fix workers' attention on the events in France, and to distort their nature, while at the same time distorting the nature of 68 itself;
- the Belgian bourgeoisie's use, with the same success, of an identical repeat of the manoeuvre which trapped the workers in France, on the basis of this media campaign.
11) The renewed strength and credibility of the union apparatus, which was a specific characteristic of the social movements in France at the end of 95, is not a new phenomenon, either in France or internationally. This was already pointed out a year go by the last ICC Congress: " ... it is important to show that the tendencies towards going beyond the unions, which appeared in 1992 in Italy, have not been confirmed - far from it. In 1994 the "monster" demonstration in Rome was a masterpiece of union control. Similarly, the tendency towards spontaneous unification in the street, which appeared (although only embryonically) in autumn 1993 in the Ruhr in Germany, has since given way to large scale union manoeuvres, such as the engineering "strike" of early 1995, which have been entirely controlled by the bourgeoisie" (Point 15). This renewed credibility of the unions was one result of the Eastern bloc's collapse at the end of the 80s: "reformist ideology will weigh very heavily on the struggle in the coming period, making the activity of the unions much easier" ("Theses on the economic and political crisis in the USSR and the countries of the Eastern bloc", September 1989). This sprang from the fact, not that the workers still had any illusions in the "socialist paradise", but that the existence of a kind of society presented as "non-capitalist" seemed to mean that something other than capitalism could exist on earth. The end of these regimes was presented as "the end of history". Given that the terrain par excellence of the unions and of unionism is the improvement of the proletariat's living conditions in capitalism, the events of 1989, aggravated by a whole series of blows dealt the working class since then (due to the Gulf War, the explosion of the USSR, the war in ex-Yugoslavia), could only lead to the return to influence of the trades unions, which can be seen in all countries today, and which was particularly highlighted by the events in France at the end of 1995. A return to strength which has not come overnight, but which is the result of a whole process in which "radical" forms of unionism (COBAS etc, in Italy, SUD and FSU in France, etc) have reinforced union ideology, to leave the limelight to the traditional union hierarchies.
What is today's balance of forces between the classes?
12) As a result, in the main capitalist countries, the working class has been brought back to a situation which is comparable to that of the 1970s as far as its relation to unions and unionism is concerned: a situation where the class, in general, struggled within the unions, followed their instructions and their slogans, and in the final analysis, left things up to them. In this sense, the bourgeoisie has temporarily succeeded in wiping out from working class consciousness the lessons learnt during the 80s, following the repeated experience of confrontation with the unions. The ruling class will make the most, for as long as possible, of this strengthening of the unions and unionism, which will force the working class into a long period of confrontation with the latter (as it did during the 70s and up until the end of the 80s, even if this period does not last as long) before it can once again get out of their grip. At the same time, it will have to see through all the ideological campaigns around the question of the "internationalisation of the economy", which the bourgeoisie uses to try to conceal the real cause of its attacks against the proletariat: the dead-end crisis of the capitalist system. The unions will propose to "counter" these campaigns, by dragging the workers onto the rotten ground of nationalism, and competition with their class brothers in other countries.
13) The working class thus still has a long way to go. But the difficulties and obstacles it encounters should not be a factor of demoralisation, and it is up to revolutionaries to combat any such demoralisation resolutely. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, knows perfectly well the potential that the proletariat bears within it. This is why it organises manoeuvres like that at the end of 1995. As revolutionaries have always said, and as the bourgeoisie itself confirms, the crisis of the capitalist economy is the proletariat's best ally, which will open the workers' eyes to the dead-end in which today's world finds itself, and give them the determination to destroy it despite all the obstacles which every sector of the ruling class will not fail to strew in their path.
I CC, June1996