The ICC Section in France held its 20th Congress recently. Like all RI congresses, this plenary gathering of our territorial section had, of course, an international dimension. This is why delegations were present from different sections of the ICC, composed of comrades from several countries and continents, who were able to actively participate in the discussions. Also present at this Congress were a number of contacts and supporters of the ICC, invited to the various discussions (except those dealing with our internal functioning).
As with the plenary gatherings of our other territorial sections, an important part of the work of the RI Congress was devoted to the discussion of the activities of the ICC. Moreover, in the way in which in recent years our organisation has devoted its congress debates to analysing the evolution of the economic crisis and the class struggle in particular, this Congress of RI gave itself the task of conducting a specific discussion on the dynamics of the imperialist conflicts by placing them in a historical and theoretical framework.
The balance sheet of our analysis on the unfolding imperialist conflicts
The report and discussion on the imperialist conflicts gave itself the objective of making a balance sheet of the events that have unfurled since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 to see if it confirms the validity of the ICC's analyses.
After the collapse of the USSR, the ICC had asked the following question: with the demise of the Eastern bloc, would we now see the hegemony of one imperialist bloc and a decline in military conflicts? The ICC replied: No! Indeed, we have always rejected the thesis of ‘super-imperialism’, developed by Kautsky before the First World War, which was opposed by revolutionaries in the past (including Lenin). This thesis has been disproved by the facts themselves. "It was just as false when it was taken up and adapted by the Stalinists and Trotskyists claiming that the bloc controlled by the USSR was not imperialist. Today, the collapse of this bloc is not going to revive this kind of analysis: as a consequence of its collapse, the Western bloc is tumbling too." (International Review n ° 61, January 1990).
The debates at the congress showed that events have fully confirmed the validity of marxism: the disappearance of the Russian imperialist bloc was not going to open up an ‘era of peace and prosperity’ for humanity as claimed by the western ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie. Since 1989, the militarist barbarism of capitalism continued to unfold in the Middle East, in Africa, Pakistan, and even in Europe with the war in the former Yugoslavia.
The congress also examined the other analysis that the ICC had developed in 1989: if the historical tendency for the formation of imperialist blocs (characteristic of the period of capitalist decadence) was still correct, only Germany could be a new bloc leader opposing the United States because of its economic power and its strategic geographical location. But, as we said at the time, this hypothetical perspective could not be realised in an immediate sense, particularly because Germany has little military strength; it does not have nuclear weapons, needed to become the leader of a new imperialist bloc. Twenty-three years after the collapse of the USSR, the RI Congress noted that Germany has not emerged as a rival to challenge American power on the world stage (therefore this ICC hypothesis has not been verified). By contrast, it is China that is emerging as the main rival of the first world power. The congress has clearly stated that this is a new element that the ICC had not expected (and could not have foreseen) when the USSR collapsed. Nevertheless, although China increasingly shows its commitment to be a world power, it does not have the military might to oppose the imperialist aims of the United States. Its aggression towards the United States is expressed mainly on the economic and strategic level (as confirmed by the global competitiveness of its goods, its extensive international relations and its presence on the African continent).
The debates at the congress recalled that, although the military conditions for a Third World War have disappeared with the collapse of the USSR (which led to the collapse of the former American bloc created after the Second World War), armed conflicts haven't at all gone away and the death tally continues to rise globally. The only difference lies in the fact that these conflicts are no longer contained by a bloc discipline, as was the case during the period of the Cold War. Our analysis of the decomposition of capitalism, the final phase in the decadence of this mode of production, has also enabled the ICC to say that the tendency towards 'every man for himself' and the instability of the military alliances would form an obstacle to the formation of new imperialist blocs. If the militarist barbarism of capitalism has continued over two decades in the form of 'every man for himself' (including the emergence of terrorism as a weapon of war between states), it is precisely because no world power has been able in this time to play the role of world policeman and impose a new 'world order' as claimed at the time by U.S. President George Bush. The congress demonstrated that the predictions of the ICC and of marxism are totally confirmed: peace is impossible under capitalism. This is what we have seen since 1989 with the two Gulf wars, the massacres in the Middle East and in Africa, the conflict between India and Pakistan and for the first time since 1945, the outbreak of a European war, in the former Yugoslavia.
If the 20th RI Congress has found it necessary to remind us of the framework of analysis of the ICC, it is also to convey to young militants the method of marxism. Only this historical method and the scientific verification of the facts can enable us to avoid the pitfalls of empiricism based on a purely photographic picture of events from day to day.
The analysis of the situation in France
The second discussion that animated the debates at the Congress was focused on the situation in France and led to the adoption of a resolution published in RI no.438. The 20th RI Congress was held shortly after the recent presidential elections in which François Hollande was the victor. The debates in the congress affirmed that this change of government would further increase the difficulty of the French bourgeoisie to manage the national capital. There is now a "socialist" government that will have to deal with the inevitable worsening of the global economic crisis. This "left-wing" government (that has moreover inherited the blunders of "Sarkozyism") can only continue to intensify the attacks against working class living conditions. The only "change" can come in the language and types of mystification used to implement the austerity policies of the new government, as the Resolution adopted by the congress clearly spelled out.
The debate on the report on the situation in France presented to the Congress also dealt with the dynamics of the class struggle. It showed that, despite the depth of the economic crisis and the significant deterioration of living conditions of the working class in France, as in all countries, the proletariat has not, as yet, launched itself into large scale struggles since the movement against pension reform in the autumn of 2011: "If, as in other countries, expressions of combativity are characterised by a dispersion of struggles, the brutal attacks on working class living standards that results from the economic crisis, will force workers into developing their struggles on a much broader scale. This is true for the working class of all countries but it is particularly true for France because the working class of this country has a long tradition of mobilising en masse. This tradition explains why, unlike what occurred in countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom, movements such as the Indignados or Occupy Wall Street have not taken place in France. The reason lies in the fact that, unlike the other countries, the militancy of the working class of this country had already produced massive mobilisations such as the struggle against the CPE in 2006 and more recently the one against pension reform. Thus, there was less of a feel for the need of such movements to express the discontent inside the working class, which tells us that the lack of movements similar to that of the Indignados in France, does not mean that the working class here is lagging behind, especially when compared to other developed countries. Despite the big handicaps that hinder the working class (loss of class identity and lack of perspective), the speed with which living conditions will continue falling in France, as in other countries, is going to push the exploited to try and develop their combativity in the manner we've seen recently with the massive protests that took place in Portugal, Spain and Greece. Even if the ideological garb which the bourgeoisie uses to push through its attacks will delay and make the explosion of struggles more difficult, it will not be enough to prevent them." (Resolution on the situation in France, Point 7).
Developing the "culture of theory" in preparing the future
The plenary assembly of our section in France is also the time when it must draw a balance sheet of its activities from the previous RI congress and draw up perspectives for the next two years. And, of course, in a centralised international organisation like the ICC, the activities of its territorial sections can only be examined in the general framework of the activities of the whole organisation. This is why the congress gave an important place in the discussion to the ICC activities (which we will report on eventually in our press after holding our next international congress).
On the basis of the report submitted by the central organ of the section in France, the Congress drew an undeniably positive balance sheet of all the RI activities (including its intervention in the class struggle, and among the politicised minorities). It was on the basis of this review that the Congress also had to examine with the utmost clarity the weaknesses and challenges that the ICC section in France had come up against in the last two years, and how it might overcome them:
- the ‘routinism’ which had given rise to an underestimation of the need for theoretical deepening (especially on organisational questions);
- a difficulty in conveying to new militants the lessons of all the accumulated experience of the ICC in building the organisation and the party spirit (the fight to defend the Statutes of the ICC, against centrism and opportunism, against the circle spirit which reduces organisational relations to links based on personal affinity).
The debates at the Congress, which took place mainly around the adoption of the Activities Resolution, gave an orientation for our section in France of improving its internal functioning to meet the challenges that lie ahead: the need to transmit to the new generation of militants the method of marxism and the acquisitions of the ICC at the political and theoretical level, as well as the organisational level. To ensure this transmission and the ‘organic’ link between generations, the Congress noted that the older generation is engaged in a permanent fight against the tendency to lose sight of its acquisitions (which we have already noted on several occasions previously). As the ICC has existed longer than any other international organisation in the history of the workers' movement, it is ‘normal’ that the acquisitions of its past experience can tend to be forgotten over time.
The Congress of the section in France adopted the perspective of having a better balance in its activity in order to allow all its militants to find time to read and reflect so that the entire organisation can collectively develop its theoretical debates (especially on new questions that can't be entrusted to ‘specialists’).
In the framework of rationalising our activity, the Congress also had a discussion on our territorial printed press and the Internet, and the role of these two media. Given that today our website is our main tool of intervention (our articles are put on line as soon as they are written), the Congress began a reflection about the reduction in the frequency/ regularity of the publication of the RI paper (whose sales only increase with interventions at demonstrations, while the numbers reading our articles on our website is not dependent on the vagaries of the class struggle).
Faced with the danger of immediatism, the Congress recalled that intervention in the ongoing struggles of the working class, as indispensable as it is, is not however our main activity. Like all revolutionary organisations of the past, the primary responsibility of the ICC is to prepare the conditions for the proletarian revolution, and in particular the conditions for the formation of the future world party. This is why our long-term work of building the organisation, must remain at the centre of our activity.
The Activities Resolution, adopted by Congress after a long debate (where all the militants were involved) said: "The activity of revolutionaries is not limited to the intervention in the immediate struggles of the working class and its minorities, but lies first of all in the ‘political and theoretical clarification of the goals and methods of the proletarian struggle, of its historic and its immediate conditions’. (see the point about our activity in our basic positions published on the back of our publications) (...) Our work of theoretical elaboration is by no means complete, far from it, and will never be completed. This theoretical clarification is still ahead of us and must remain our priority in the fight to build the organisation and in continuing to fulfill our responsibility as a vanguard of the proletariat. " (Point 14).
"...The struggle for communism doesn't just have an economic and political dimension, but also a theoretical dimension ("intellectual" and moral). It is by developing 'the culture of theory'; that is to say, the ability to permanently situate all aspects of the organisation's activities in a historical and /or theoretical framework, that we can develop and deepen the culture of debate internally, and better assimilate the dialectical method of marxism."
Clearly with this approach the ICC section in France has provided itself with the perspective of strengthening its organisational tissue and improving its functioning by developing a theoretical debate on the roots of its present and past difficulties.
"This work of theoretical reflection cannot ignore the contribution of science (and notably the social sciences, such as psychology and anthropology), on the history of the human species and the development of civilisation. In particular the discussion on 'marxism and science' was of utmost importance for us and we should continue with it and build on it in our reflections and in our organisational life." (Activities Resolution, Point 6).
The invitation of a scientist to the 20th Congress of RI
As our readers know, in the year of the celebration of the ‘Darwin anniversary’, the ICC revived a tradition of the past workers' movement: an interest in scientific research and the new scientific discoveries, including those that provide marxism with a better understand of human nature. For it to build communism in the future, the proletariat must go to the "root of things" and, as Marx said, "the root of things for man is man himself." This is why we have conducted a discussion on "marxism and science" and have invited scientists to the last two ICC congresses.
Our interest in the sciences continued in the 20th RI Congress. A small part of this work was devoted to a debate with a scientist around a topic chosen by us: "Confidence and solidarity in the evolution of humanity: what distinguishes our species from the great apes?".
Camilla Power, teacher of anthropology at the University of East London (and collaborator with Chris Knight), had agreed to come to the RI congress and lead a discussion on this topic. In her very interesting and well-illustrated presentation, she explained the development of solidarity and confidence in the human species by recalling the Darwinian theory of evolution.
Everyone at the congress, including our contacts and the invited sympathisers, appreciated the materialist approach and the scientific rigour of the presentation, as well as the quality of the debate. For her part, Camilla Power warmly thanked the congress with these words before her departure:
"I just want to say thank you; it was very exciting for me to come to your congress. I learned a lot from the questions and answers from the different contributors. I was very impressed with the reading you have done, and what you have learned. I have always felt very committed to marxism and to Darwinism. I'm an anthropologist. We must combine an understanding of the natural history and social history. And anthropology is central to this. Marx and Engels spent a lot of time towards the end of their lives doing research in anthropology. It happened very late in life, but it shows that they recognised how important it is. It's very exciting to meet people who want to think scientifically about what it means ‘to be human’. This is a very important issue for everyone, for the international working class. For us, it is about rediscovering the nature of our humanity. We must not be afraid of science, because it is science that will give us revolutionary answers. Thank you very much, comrades."
We can now make a very positive assessment of the invitation of a scientist to our congress. It is an experience that our organisation will try and repeat as much as possible in future congresses.
The road leading to the proletarian revolution is a long, difficult and fraught with pitfalls (as Marx underlined in The 18th Brumaire).
The work of the ICC is just as long and difficult as the struggle of the proletariat for its emancipation. It is all the more difficult as our forces remain extremely limited today. But the difficulties facing the communist organisations in carrying out their work has never been a factor of discouragement, as we see in this quote from Marx cited at the end of the Activities Resolution adopted by the 20th Congress of RI: "I've always found it in all those truly steeled characters, that once they have engaged in revolutionary work, they will continually draw new strength from defeat and become even more committed as the tide of history sweeps them along"(Marx, Letter to Philip J. Becker).