This issue of the International Review brings together four documents that express our present concerns regarding the world situation and our role as revolutionaries within it.
First a new statement about Catalonia. We have already taken take position on these events, as readers of our publications, above all the website will have noticed. In October 2017 we distributed the leaflet “Confrontations in Catalonia: Democracy and the Nation are the reactionary past, the proletariat is the future”, translated into different languages. A number of other articles have appeared, in particular on our Spanish-language page, but these events will require a close following in the period ahead and the latest statement will certainly not be the last.
The independence movement in Catalonia is in direct contradiction with the “rational” management of the capitalist state and economy at the levels of Catalonia, Spain and the European Union. The only ones in the ranks of the bourgeoisie who could profit from a further deepening of this process would be the likes of Putin, the rivals of a strong EU in the world wide inter-imperialist competition. But the aspect that must concern us most of all is the impact of these events on the proletariat. The nationalist fever around Catalonia’s “independence” is a heavy blow against the working class not only in this area, but internationally, given the global importance of the class struggle in Spain.
We are seeing many of those who took part in the “Indignados” revolt in 2001, a movement which strove towards internationalism, towards proletarian principles, abandoning any idea of a fight against capitalism to join the demonstrations for or against independence. Proletarian families are torn apart between those who support Puigdemont or other fractions of the Catalonian cause and the Españolistas who think that Spain should remain one country. And where are the internationalists? They are currently a beleaguered minority, but the need for them to speak out is greater than ever.
The second article ‘The United States at the heart of the growing world disorder’ is about the life of the bourgeoisie of the strongest economic and military power. It is part of an analysis of the ruling class in the main Western countries. The complete article has been published online. The article highlights the great difficulties of the ruling class in the US after almost one year of Trump as president. An important chapter is dedicated to the relationship between the two former bloc leaders, to the role Russia plays today in America’s strategic options.
These assessments should be seen as a continuation of the orientation decided at the 21st international congress in 2015 to critically analyse the international situation, not excluding a self-critical reflection on possible mistakes we committed at this level in the past (cf. "40 years after the foundation of the ICC” in International Review 156").
The third text in the present review is our Manifesto on the October revolution, Russia 1917, one century after the first successful proletarian revolution. We published it online in October and organised a series of public meetings on the issue. First, we have to defend the internationalist character of the October revolution as part of a world class movement against capitalism. Without this reference point, together with a fearless examination of all the errors committed and the weaknesses encountered, a successful new attempt in the future will not be possible. The Russian revolution is part of our history, part of the proletarian story, despite its degeneration and the atrocities committed in its name afterwards. The Manifesto not only answers the present bourgeois campaigns but also draws the lessons and tries to give indications for the perspective of communism today. Although the revolution did not spread to the whole world and the process remained isolated and thus without a real perspective to overcome capitalism, “the October insurrection is to this day the highest point achieved by the proletarian class struggle – an expression of its ability to become organised on a mass scale, conscious of its goals, confident of taking the reins of social life. It was the anticipation of what Marx called ‘the end of prehistory’, of all conditions in which humanity is at the mercy of unconscious social forces; the anticipation of a future in which, for the first time, humanity will make its own history according to its own needs and purposes.”
The last text in this review is the Resolution on the international class struggle, a document of the last international congress of the ICC in spring 2017.
With this global analysis of the situation we start the reporting of the results of our congress which traditionally has the fundamental task of deciding the general orientations for our activities in the period ahead. The analysis of the world situation is a crucial element in this.
The resolution is focussed on the social situation, the balance of forces between the two main classes of present capitalist society – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Almost three decades after the collapse of the old bloc system and the onset of what we call the period of decomposition we are still trying to get a better understanding of the challenges facing revolutionaries today, to sharpen our concepts of the historic course and of decomposition: "The class movements that erupted in the advanced countries after 1968 marked the end of the counter-revolution, and the continuing resistance of the working class constituted an obstacle to the bourgeoisie’s ‘solution’ to the economic crisis: world war. It was possible to define this period as a ‘course towards massive class confrontations’, and to insist that a course towards war could not be opened up without a head-on defeat of an insurgent working class. In the new phase, the disintegration of both imperialist blocs took world war off the agenda independently of the level of class struggle. But this meant that the question of the historic course could no longer be posed in the same terms. The inability of capitalism to overcome its contradictions still means that it can only offer humanity a future of barbarism, whose contours can already be glimpsed in a hellish combination of local and regional wars, ecological devastation, pogromism and fratricidal social violence. But unlike world war, which requires a direct physical as well as ideological defeat of the working class, this ‘new’ descent into barbarism operates in a slower, more insidious manner which can gradually engulf the working class and render it incapable of reconstituting itself as a class. The criterion for measuring the evolution of the balance of forces between the classes can no longer be that the proletariat holding back world war, and has in general become more difficult to gage." (Resolution point 11)
Which criteria do we need today for an appropriate assessment of the balance of class forces?
- The capacity of the working class to resist the austerity policy of the bourgeoisie and the degree of solidarity developed within its ranks are certainly relevant factors for such an assessment.
- However, there is also the question of the perspectives. If the proletariat is not able to perceive itself as a distinct class and develop a perspective going beyond the existing society which subjects us to the alienated logic of profit for the profit's sake, there is no future to strive for – and this state of mind affects the proletariat's capacity to resist. "After 1989, with the collapse of the ‘socialist’ regimes, a qualitatively new factor emerged: the impression of the impossibility of a modern society not based on capitalist principles. Under these circumstances, it is more difficult for the proletariat to develop, not only its class consciousness and class identity, but even its defensive economic struggles, since the logic of the needs of the capitalist economy weigh much heavier if they appear to be without any alternative." (Point 13)
- More specifically the resolution points to the pernicious effects of the loss of solidarity within the ranks of the proletariat: "In particular, we are seeing the rise of the phenomenon of scapegoating, of ways of thinking which blame persons – onto whom all of the evil of the world is projected – for whatever goes wrong in society. Such ideas open the door to the pogrom. Today populism is the most striking, but far from being the only manifestation of this problem, which tends to permeate all social relations. At work and in the everyday life of the working class, it increasingly weakens cooperation, and favours atomisation and the development of mutual suspicion and of mobbing." (point 19)
We do not think that the point of no return has been crossed, that the class in the established centres of world capitalism, along with the enormous proletariat of China, has been defeated. We still see a potential for the development of what we call the political-moral dimension of the proletarian struggle: the emerging of a deep seated rejection of the existing way of life on the part of wider sectors of the class (point 24).
This difficult situation also affects our tasks as a minority of the class. The revolutionary minorities are a product of the class and have a specific role – in the present period to be an organisational bridge from the past revolutionary struggles to those of the future, even if a huge distance has to be travelled.