The ICC held its 13th Congress at the end of March and beginning of April 1999. As for any organisation in the workers’ movement, the Congress is an extremely important moment in our organisation’s life and activity. This Congress, however, was particularly important. On the one hand, it was the last one of the 20th century, and the preparatory reports were intended even more than usual to give a historical dimension to the subjects they dealt with. On the other, irrespective of any demands of the calendar, the Congress was held at a moment marked by the acceleration of history constituted by the war in Yugoslavia.
This is an event of the utmost historical importance, since:
“- this war does not just concern a peripheral country, as was the case with the Gulf War in 1991, but a European one;
- this is the first time since World War II that a European country and its capital has been massively bombarded;
- this is the also first time since World War II that the main defeated country of World War II - Germany - has intervened by committing combat troops directly in battle...” (Resolution on the International Situation).
In this sense, the war in Yugoslavia and its analysis, its implications for the working class and for the communist organisations, were at the heart of the Congress’ concerns, which it expressed in its decision to publish its resolution on the international situation immediately in the International Review no.97.
This resolution, a synthesis of the reports presented to the Congress and its discussions, emphasised the fact that:
“Today, a capitalism in its death throes is facing one of the most difficult and dangerous moments in modern history, comparable in gravity to that of the two world wars, to the outbreak of proletarian revolution in 1917-19, or to the Great Depression which began in 1929. But today, neither world war nor world revolution are pending in the foreseeable future. Rather, the gravity of the situation is conditioned by a sharpening of contradictions at all levels:
- imperialist tensions and the development of world disorder;
- a very advanced and dangerous moment in the crisis of capitalism;
- attacks against the world proletariat unprecedented since the last world war;
- and an accelerating decomposition of bourgeois society” (ibid).
All these elements are dealt with at length in the resolution. In this issue, they are developed further in the form of extensive extracts from the report presented to the Congress on the burning issue of the hour: that of imperialist conflicts.
Moreover, the Congress resolution notes that: “In this situation, so full of danger, the bourgeoisie has placed the reins of government in the hands of that political current best able to take care of its interests: Social Democracy, the current mainly responsible for crushing the world revolution after 1917-18. The current which saved capitalism at that time, and is now returning to the controls in order to defend the threatened interests of the capitalist class” (ibid).
In this sense, the Congress adopted an orientation text entitled “The reasons for the presence of left parties in government in the majority of European states today”, which we are also publishing below, along with several additions which draw together elements put forward in the discussion.
Of course, the evolution of the capitalist crisis and the class struggle were also the object of important discussions during the Congress. In this issue of the International Review, we are publishing the third part of the article on “Thirty years of open capitalist crisis”, which deals with much the same issues as the report presented to the Congress. In the next issue, we will publish the report, adopted by the Congress, on the evolution of the class struggle, which is illustrated in particular by this passage in the resolution: “The responsibility weighing on the proletariat today is enormous. Only by developing its militancy and consciousness can it bring forth the revolutionary alternative which alone can secure the survival and the further ascent of human society” (ibid).
Apart from the analysis of different aspects of the international situation, and its extreme seriousness, the Congress’ main concern was to examine the responsibility of revolutionaries confronted with this situation, as the resolution highlights: “But the most important responsibility weighs on the shoulders of the communist left, the existing organisations of the proletarian camp. They alone can furnish the theoretical and historical lessons and the political method without which the revolutionary minorities emerging today cannot attach themselves to the preparation of the class party of the future. In some ways, the communist left finds itself in a similar situation today to that of Bilan in the 1930s, in the sense that it is obliged to understand a new and unprecedented historical situation. Such a situation requires both a profound attachment to the theoretical and historical approach of marxism, and revolutionary audacity in understanding situations which are not really covered by the schemas of the past. In order to fulfil this task, open debates between the existing organisations of the proletarian milieu are indispensable. In this sense, the discussion, clarification and regroupment, the propaganda and intervention of the small revolutionary minorities is an essential part of the proletarian response to the gravity of the world situation on the threshold of the next millennium.
Furthermore, faced with the unprecedented intensification of capitalist military barbarity, the working class demands of its communist vanguard the full assumption of its responsibilities in defence of proletarian internationalism. Today, the groups of the communist left are alone in defending the classic positions of the workers’ movement against imperialist war. Only the groups which belong to this current - the only one which did not betray during World War II - can give a class response to the questioning which is bound to appear within the working class.
The revolutionary groups must give as united a response as possible, thereby giving expression to the indispensable unity of the proletariat against the unleashing of chauvinism and conflicts between nations. In doing so, the revolutionaries will adopt the tradition of the workers’ movement which figured especially in the conferences of Zimmerwald and Kienthal, and in the policies of the left within these conferences”.
This was the framework for the 13th ICC Congress’ discussions on its activities.