Submitted by International Review on
1. The crisis which began to affect the developed countries in 1965 and which accelerated dramatically at the end of 1973, is neither a crisis of civilization, nor a monetary crisis, nor a crisis of raw materials, nor one of 'reconstruction'. It is the crisis of the world capitalist system itself.
2. The growth in unemployment which accompanied the generalized drop in world production, and which has reached a scale comparable to that of 1929, together with the multiplication of famines and epidemics in certain 'Third World' countries, and finally the continuous crisis of agriculture even in the most developed countries, are the clearest symptoms that the sickness which is increasingly shaking world capitalism today is not a mere passing conjunctural or cyclical recession but the convulsions of a
system in its death-throes.
3. This second open crisis of the capitalist system resoundingly confirms the thesis, defended by revolutionaries for nearly sixty years in the wake of the Communist International, that the period opened up by World War I is one of decline of a mode of production which has reached the limits of its historical trajectory. In this period, the world crisis is the reflection of the state of decomposition of a decadent system.
4. Faced with the end of the reconstruction period which originated in the destruction caused by the second imperialist conflict, capitalism has tried to escape from an open crisis by pushing its first symptoms onto the backward regions and by trying to find a solution to its own contradictions in local wars, in particular the Vietnam war. These efforts have ended in total failure. In fact, they have had a boomerang effect which has considerably intensified the destructive shocks of the crisis.
5. In contrast to 1929, when a generalized crash signalled the beginning of an open crisis, the present crisis is no longer characterized by a brutal collapse but by a prolonged, gradual momentum. The bourgeoisie, forced by its own class survival instincts to draw the lessons of the last crisis, is accelerating the tendency towards state control of the whole economy. The injection into capital’s ailing veins of fictitious capital in the form of generalized inflation, has made it possible to hold back the system's slide towards a final collapse.
6. However, the recourse to these palliatives has only amplified the problems capitalism has been trying to ward off. Today, whatever the hemisphere, continent, or nation, the crisis has made itself felt everywhere. The various 'economic miracles' with their steady and rapid rates of growth are now nothing but shadows haunting the memory of the ruling class. The sombre reality of life in the 'Third World', which has been in permanent crisis throughout the period of reconstruction, has now become part of the whole world economic scene.
The world economy - despite the apparatus of state capitalism in each of its national sectors - is today doomed to go through increasingly violent oscillations between hyper-inflation and brutal deflation. This destruction of money capital is simply an expression of the impossibility of global capital escaping from the asphyxiation which is choking it in the form of over-production and massive budget deficits, and which can in the long run only result in the catastrophic downfall of the system.
7. The countries of the Russian bloc, the numerous 'picturesque' varieties of 'socialism' which, according to the left and the leftists, are free from the effects of the crisis thanks to their so-called 'scientific', 'socialist' planning, have also been plunged into the crisis in 1975. This late entry into the crisis can be explained by the permanent mechanisms and manipulations resorted to by the 'ideal capital: the state'; but now these countries are poorly placed to resist the shocks of a crisis which grows deeper and deeper as more and more countries are hit by it.
9. The crisis in the Eastern bloc strikingly confirms the marxist thesis according to which decadent capitalism is incapable of resolving its contradictions. 'State capitalism' is not a solution to the crisis, as the Stalinists assert, together with those councilists who define it as 'state socialism'. The failure of this 'solution' is now depriving the bourgeoisie of one of its most powerful mystifications.
10. Revolutionaries must energetically denounce the mystifications about a 'recovery' which are now being put forward by the bourgeoisie, whether in the form of plans to get the economy 'on the move', or of nationalizations. The propaganda of revolutionaries within their class must be based on the fact that within a framework of capitalist decadence all these so-called 'solutions' can do nothing but plaster over the cracks in a way that involves attacking the proletariat's standard of living and constantly worsening its conditions of existence.
11. Today, as it was fifty years ago, there is only one alternative: war or revolution. On a hyper-saturated world market where each national capital in order to survive must export its own commodities to the detriment of rival capitals, the only 'solution' can be a violent one. The proletariat has been plunged brutally into a crisis which could result in its being used as cannon-fodder in a third imperialist conflict. As the last two wars have shown such a conflict could easily mean for humanity an irremediable relapse into barbarism. Therefore, the communist revolution, which will allow humanity to pass from the reign of necessity to the reign of freedom, appears as an historic necessity.
12. In contrast to the inter-war period the main tendency today is not towards imperialist war. Since the end of the reconstruction period the proletariat has displayed a combativity which has increased ten-fold with the deepening crisis. Only a brutal crushing of the proletariat, or a series of repeated defeats, could reverse the current trend-towards revolution and open the way to another imperialist war. Today, the fact that the crisis has coincided with a rising tide of class struggle means that the proletarian revolution is on the agenda in similar conditions to those envisaged by Marx and not like the last revolutionary wave, which came out of an imperialist war. Such a war today could only come after the proletarian movement had disappeared.
13. As the two great imperialist conflicts have shown, war is the only perspective for the bourgeoisie. Imperialist war, whose world-wide destructive effects lead to a regression of the productive forces, cannot be a remedy for the decline of capitalism: in fact each war only accelerates that decline. For capital war is the only way out, but it can never resolve the problem of the crisis; it is simply the continuation of the crisis by other means.
14. Although world war is not on the immediate agenda today, capital is nevertheless using 'national liberation' wars and local wars just as it did in the past: to test and perfect its arsenal of death in preparation for a third world conflict.
15. The end of the Vietnam war did not mark the beginning of an era of 'armed peace' between the two blocs, sanctioned by the Helsinki conferences. The armaments industry is the only sector of the economy to have undergone a rapid feverish development since the crisis began. The year 1975 was accompanied by the most enormous armaments programmes humanity has ever known. Far from establishing an era of Russo-American co-partnership, as the latter-day descendants of Kautsky would have it, this year has seen the acceleration of armaments production; the only limit on this growth is the increasing combativity of the proletariat.
16. Though the two imperialist blocs continue to gauge their strength in the zones peripheral to capitalism, today inter-imperialist conflicts are moving closer to the vital centres of the system. The Mediterranean, where Russia and the USA confront each other through different local wars, is tending to become the powder-keg of the capitalist world. The development of the war in Angola, the border incidents between China and India and China and Russia, are a sign of the fact that for both strategic and economic reasons the two big imperialisms are concentrating their forces on areas closer and closer to the industrial heartlands of capital.
17. The multiplication of local wars between countries within the same bloc (Greece and Turkey) or the apparent 'national independence' granted to the countries of South East Asia by the two big imperialist powers do not signify a weakening of the blocs constituted around the USSR and USA. Such phenomena show that each camp has strengthened its political stranglehold over its sphere of influence to the point where direct military intervention is no longer necessary. The apparent development of centrifugal tendencies within each bloc, tendencies originating in the desperate attempts of each national bourgeoisie to find a way of resolving 'its own' crisis, represents nothing but an anachronistic resistance against the centripetal force which pushes each national capital into the lap of its respective imperialist bloc. Today the slogan of each bourgeoisie can no longer be 'every man for himself' as it was during the period of reconstruction; instead it must be 'everyone stick together'. The collapse of a single industrial country could lead to the collapse of all the others, and the necessity to reinforce the blocs in preparation for world war more and more imposes an iron discipline within each camp.
18. In the game of strength between the two great imperialist powers, it is the USA which has scored the most points at the expense of Russia which has had to withdraw to its positions of strength; it has been concentrating on reinforcing internal discipline and cohesion even though its foreign policy is still based on the search for new sources of strategic support.
China, the third biggest imperialist power in the world, is playing the same role Russia played before 1914: although it is trying to find new spheres of influence in Asia and Africa its economic weakness prevents it from undertaking a policy of expansion on its own. Like Czarist Russia it is destined to provide the cannon-fodder for one bloc or another in a third imperialist conflict. If China is today allied with the USA against Russia, the history of the last fifty years has shown that a change of allies is always possible.
19. The thesis defended by the leftists which holds that US imperialism has been weakened by the blows of different 'national liberation' struggles is a complete mystification and an attempt to mobilize the workers behind the Russian bloc. The corollary of this thesis, the 'crumbling of the blocs', when it is not a veiled apology for nationalism with its talk of 'national independence', is a dangerous under-estimation of capital's preparation for war and leads either to pacifism or a wait-and-see attitude.
20. In the face of the reawakening class struggle which poses a mortal threat to capital, the bourgeoisie can only reinforce its preparations and its cohesion on a global scale in order to be able to form a single bloc against the eventuality of a proletarian revolution. Against a bourgeoisie forced to take more and more extreme measures to get out of the crisis, the proletariat will be forced to understand the immense importance of the ruthless struggle it has to wage against its mortal enemy.
21. The 1929 crash could lead revolutionaries in the past to believe that the crisis would be a factor of demoralization for the proletariat, opening the fatal path to war. But the present crisis is in fact a real school of struggle for the proletariat whose fears are dissolved in the flames of the class struggle. In the present period the deepening of the crisis under the repeated blows of the international class struggle can only accelerate that struggle, reinforcing the cohesion and strength of the proletariat's ranks; and this is a vital pre-condition for the proletariat to move onto a qualitatively higher stage of consciousness and organization. The giant lulled by fifty years of counter-revolution but galvanized by the crisis has reappeared on the historic scene with a new strength. From Spain to Argentina, from Britain to Poland, whatever name capitalist exploitation goes by, the proletariat is once again the spectre that haunts the world.
22. Although the explosions of working class struggle between 1969 and 1971 in Europe were followed by a certain reflux, the year 1975 marked a new stage in the proletarian struggle, which once the initial stupor had disappeared, took the form of an intense resistance against capital's attacks (massive unemployment rapid deterioration of living standards. The course of the class struggle is today at a decisive turning point. The class struggle, though it develops slowly and through sporadic outbursts, is more and more tending to attain a qualitatively higher level, gaining in breadth and depth what it may have temporarily lost in sheer weight of numbers. Although the renewal of workers' struggles has so far taken place in countries with a deeply rooted tradition of class struggle, the extension of these struggles all over the world is the sign of their impending mass generalization and thus the embryo of the formation of the world proletarian army.
23. Nevertheless it is on Spain that the attention of revolutionaries is concentrated today, owing to the intensity and radical nature of the struggles of the Spanish workers. Although in 1936 Spain was quickly transformed into a testing ground for the second imperialist world war, in the current period it is destined to play a decisive role in the international balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It will serve as a real laboratory for the titanic struggles brewing between the two antagonistic classes and revolutionaries will have to be able to draw all the lessons from the crucial events which will take place there, and which will have a vital influence in deciding whether the world revolution will surge forward or be smothered.
24. However, because of the
- still gradual and relatively slow rhythm of the crisis
- and the weight of fifty years of counter-revolution, during which the proletariat went through the bloodiest defeats in its entire history and lost the most elementary of its class instincts
the reawakening of struggle still manifests itself on the economic terrain of resistance to capital. Even when these struggles reach the level of mass strikes which immediately pose the question of confronting the state, they tend to take on a jerky movement, to follow an irregular course; very often big outbursts of struggle are followed by an apparent apathy. The proletariat still seems not to have become fully conscious of the rich lessons contained in the struggles it has engaged in, even if its general experiences are everywhere the same.
Despite the sporadic appearance of political nuclei within the proletariat in places where the class struggle has attained the highest levels of development, the class has not been and is still not able to become spontaneously conscious of the need to move from the economic terrain to the political terrain of generalized offensive against capital, from partial struggles to the global struggle which will necessarily involve the appearance of the unitary, economic and political organs of the whole class: the workers' councils.
25. Throughout the world the lessons which are already beginning to be engraved on the heart and mind of the class are everywhere the same, from the most backward to the most developed countries:
- bitter resistance against the effects of the crisis through the generalization of the class struggle.
- class autonomy through confrontation with the unions, the arm of capital within the factory.
- necessity of a direct political struggle through confrontation with the capitalist state.
26. The appearance and development in this heat of struggle of workers' assemblies which bring together all the workers of one or several factories for a given struggle, express the gropings of the revolutionary class towards autonomy. In the present period, when the level of class struggle remains relatively modest, these organs can only be the embryos of the unitary organizations of the class. As such, in the absence of a permanent class struggle, they will be forced either to disappear as the struggle dies down, or to be transformed into trade unions and thus into new instruments of mystification.
27. The increasingly chronic paralysis of the political apparatus of capital which is taking place in countries whose economy is half-way between development and industrialization, such as Portugal and Argentina, is a pre-figuration of the social and economic decomposition which, as the crisis and the class struggle accelerate, lies in store for the whole of capitalism. As past revolutions have shown, the proletarian revolution occurs when the bourgeoisie can no longer govern in the old stable way and when the workers more and more refuse to go on living as they had been.
28. In the face of art increasingly audacious and combative proletariat, the bourgeoisie is less able to muster the capacity and cohesion needed to 'crush the class and mobilize it for a third world war. Its strategy today is to avoid any frontal struggle with its mortal enemy, anything which might push the class struggle in a revolutionary direction. Mystification - ie the whole strategy of diverting, dividing and demoralizing the proletariat - is the only real weapon the bourgeoisie can use today. The various mystifications used by capital to prevent or at least slow down the development of revolutionary consciousness in the class are in the present period much more effective and dangerous weapons than its whole arsenal of repression, or all the measures it has already taken to prepare for civil war. Nevertheless the bourgeoisie is well aware that, in the end, a direct confrontation is inevitable; the mystifications it is using now pimply serve to gain time so that the proletariat can be taken on in the most favourable circumstances.
29. Because they alone can serve to divert the proletariat from its class terrain, the parties of the left, whose accession to power is an ineluctable necessity for capital, constitute the only possible replacement for the traditional governing parties who today find it impossible to keep the working class under control. Their capacity to present themselves to the workers as 'their' parties enables them to play a vital role in persuading the class to make sacrifices for its own 'popular government' or 'socialist economy'. It is true that there are cases where the instability or archaic nature of the political apparatus of capital, or else a local defeat for the proletariat, have led to the replacement of the left by the right; but because the political solutions of the bourgeoisie can only work on a global scale, the necessity of the left-wing solution will tend to impose itself everywhere in the face of a proletariat which cannot be defeated or at least paralyzed unless this happens on a global scale.
30. Nevertheless, since the mystifying capacities of the traditional parties of the left have begun to run dry after fifty years of the counter-revolution, they will increasingly be replaced by more radical or leftist factions in their efforts to derail the class struggle. These factions are the last card of mystification which the bourgeoisie is keeping carefully in reserve until the moment when a global confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat becomes unavoidable. However, neither the left nor the leftists, nor any other faction of capital are capable of resolving the crisis: their arrival may hold back the final conflagration between the two classes but it cannot prevent it.
31. Today, as in the past, the weapon the left uses against the proletariat, which still retains many illusions from the period of counter-revolution, is that of frontism. All the varieties of anti-fascism, anti-Stalinism, etc are so many systematic manoeuvres by capital to make the proletariat abandon its class terrain. Revolutionaries must warn the proletariat against all the 'democratic' illusions which, as in the past, can only serve to lead it to another massacre; they must tirelessly denounce all the parties who make themselves the propagandists of all the 'democratic' and 'anti' campaigns.
32. Today neither 'fascism' nor 'dictatorship' is on the agenda: East and West the bourgeoisie is preparing its democratic arsenal. But in the present period this theme cannot have the same influence it did during the period of counter-revolution. Limiting the proletariat to the framework of the factory by means of self-management; making the workers believe that the solution to the crisis is to be found in 'national independence' from the 'multinationals' or 'foreign imperialism'; these are the principal mystifications which will be used today to obstruct any movement towards class autonomy, towards generalized class consciousness, and to atomize and dissolve the interests of the class into those of the 'whole nation'.
33. Thus its 'understanding' of the situation, sharpened by the fact that its very survival as a class is at stake, has allowed the bourgeoisie to carry on with its manoeuvres this year to avoid any direct confrontation with the proletariat. Even if on a local level (Portugal, Spain) the bourgeoisie has been unable to manoeuvre with its usual facility, on a global scale it has managed to deal with the proletariat's response to the crisis and the crisis itself with a whole number of plans and strategies without suffering any major setbacks. Even so the proletariat has already begun to free itself from the illusions and mystifications thrust upon it by the ruling class.
34. Revolutionaries must warn the proletariat against any under-estimation of the strength and manoeuvrability of its class enemy. Even more than in the past, faced with a bourgeoisie strengthened by all the lessons and experience of a century and a half, the cohesion and organization of the proletariat on a world scale are an imperious necessity. By their active participation in all the proletariat's struggles against capital, revolutionaries must show that today the slightest set-back in the fight against a bitter enemy could have disastrous repercussions if the proletariat fails to draw the lessons of its experience by developing its own autonomous forms of self-organization.
35. The ICC calls on all revolutionary groups and individuals to regroup in a single fighting organization, to concentrate their forces and not disperse them. When the choice is between the triumph of communism or an irreversible relapse into barbarism, revolutionaries must be aware of the weight of historic responsibility which lies on their shoulders. The slightest delay in organization or the rejection of organization can only mean abandoning their task of intervening within the class in an organized way, of acting as the most resolute fraction of the world proletarian movement. If revolutionaries fail to live up to the task for which the class has engendered them, they will bear a heavy responsibility if their class is defeated.
In the great battles which are now brewing the organized and resolute intervention of revolutionaries will have an influence which, at a decisive moment, could tip the balance in favour of the victory of the world proletariat over capitalism.