In early May 2001, the International Communist Current held its 14th Congress.
As for any organisation in the workers' movement, its Congress is the ICC's sovereign body. This is the moment when the organisation evaluates its work since the previous Congress, and lays down its perspectives for the period to come.
This evaluation, these perspectives, are not drawn up in a vacuum. They are strictly determined by the conditions wherein the organisation is called to live up to its responsibilities, and first and foremost, of course, by the general historical context.
The Congress must therefore analyse the world as it is today, what is at stake in the events that affect social life on the economic level (which as marxists know, in the final analysis determines all the other aspects), at the level of the political life of the ruling class, and therefore of the conflicts between its different fractions, and finally at the level of the life of the only class capable of overthrowing the existing social order: the proletariat.
In examining the latter's situation, it is up to communists to examine not only the present state and the perspectives of the class struggle, the extent to which the working masses are aware of what is at stake in these struggles, but also the state and activity of the existing communist forces, which are a part of the proletariat.
Finally, and in this context, the Congress must examine the activity of our own organisation, and put forward the perspectives which will allow us to live up to our responsibilities within the class.
These are the points which this presentation of our 14th International Congress will consider.
The world today
In this same issue of the International Review, we are publishing the resolution on the international situation adopted by the Congress, which synthesises the reports presented to the Congress and the discussions based on these reports. In this sense, we need not go over every aspect of the discussions on the international situation. Suffice it to quote from the beginning of the resolution, which establishes the framework for what is at stake in the world today: "The alternative facing humanity at the beginning of the 21st century is the same as the one which faced it at the beginning of the 20th: the descent into barbarism or the renewal of society through the communist revolution. The revolutionary marxists who insisted on this inescapable dilemma in the turbulent period 1914-23 could hardly have imagined that their political descendants would still be obliged to insist on it again at the start of the new millennium. Indeed, even the 'post-68' generation of revolutionaries, who emerged from the revival of proletarian struggles after the long counter-revolution that set in during the 1920s, did not really expect that a declining capitalism could be quite so adept at living with its own contradictions as it has proved to be since the 1960s.
For the bourgeoisie, all this is further proof that capitalism is the last and now the only possible form of human society, that the communist project was never more than a utopian dream. This notion, a necessary cornerstone of all bourgeois ideology, was granted an apparent historical verification by the collapse of the 'Communist' bloc in 1989-91 (...) [Point 1]
Future generations will surely look at the bourgeois rationalisations of this decade with the utmost contempt; they will certainly see this period as one of unprecedented blindness, stupidity, horror and suffering (...) Humanity today does not merely face the prospect of barbarism in the future: the descent has already begun and it bears with it the danger of gradually eating away at the very premises of any future social regeneration. But contrary to the propaganda campaigns of the ruling class, the counter-force to the tendency towards barbarism - the communist revolution, logical culmination of the struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation - is no utopia, but remains a necessity demanded by the death agony of the present mode of production, and at the same time a concrete possibility given that the working class has neither disappeared nor been decisively defeated [Point 2]".
In fact, a major part of each of the reports presented, discussed, and adopted at the Congress1 was devoted to refuting the bourgeoisie's daily flood of lies, designed both to reassure itself and to justify its system's survival in the eyes of the exploited masses. This is because the sole aim of revolutionaries' analyses and discussions on the situation they are confronted with, is to sharpen as well as they can, the proletariat's weapons for its struggle against capitalism. The workers' movement understood long since that the proletariat's greatest strength, apart from its organisation, is its consciousness: a consciousness based on a profound understanding of the world it must transform and the enemy it must defeat. This is why the fighting nature of the Congress' documents and discussions in no way means that our organisation has succumbed to the temptation of being content with asserting mere slogans to denounce the lies of the bourgeoisie, quite the contrary. The depth with which revolutionaries examine a question is an integral part of their struggle. This has been a constant feature of the workers' movement for more than 150 years, but today its importance is still more fundamental. In a society in decadence since World War I, and which today is rotting on its feet, the ruling class is incapable of generating the slightest rational or coherent social thinking, still less any depth of thought. All it is able to do is to produce a proliferation of ideological gadgets, each one more superficial than the last but which are nonetheless presented as "profound truths" ("capitalism's definitive victory over communism", the "supreme values" of democracy, "globalisation", etc), even though they are devoid of the slightest originality, since their supposed "newness" is nothing but a lick of paint over the most shameless old platitudes. But however vacuous bourgeois "thought" may be today, thanks to the incessant din of the media it still manages to fill the workers' heads, and to colonise their minds. In this sense, the communists' efforts to get to the root of things is not just a means to understand the world today as fully as possible, it is the vital antidote to the destruction of thought, which is one expression of the decomposition into which society is plunging today. This is why our organisation decided that a major characteristic of the reports prepared for the Congress should be, not just the analysis of the three essential aspects of the world situation - the economic crisis, imperialist conflicts, and the balance of class forces between bourgeoisie and proletariat and therefore the perspectives for the proletarian struggle - but also the way in which the workers' movement posed these questions in the past.
At the turn of the century, such an approach was all the more necessary in that the last decade of the 20th century witnessed the overturning of a whole series of "givens" of the previous world situation.
At the end of 1989, the Eastern bloc collapsed like a house of cards, leading not only to the disintegration of the imperialist alignments which had emerged from the Yalta agreements of 1945, but also to a profound retreat by the working class, confronted as it was with an enormous campaign on the "end of communism". Such upheavals obviously demand that revolutionaries bring their analyses up to date, which is what our organisation has done in the course of events. Nonetheless, we thought it important to go back over the implications of these earthshaking events of 1989, and over two aspects in particular:
- how imperialist antagonisms find expression once the world is no longer divided into two blocs, as it had been since World War II;
- the notion of the historic course, in a period when because of the disappearance of the blocs, a new world war is no longer on the agenda.
Clarity on these questions is all the more important, in that they are the object of a good deal of confusion among the organisations of the Communist Left today. The Congress reports and resolutions therefore aimed to answer these confusions, which are in fact so many concessions to the ideological themes of the ruling class. In particular, these documents:
- refute the idea that there is any economic "rationality" underlying the wars that are breaking out in the present period (Point 9 of the resolution);
- insist that "the historic course towards massive class confrontations, opened by the international wave of struggles in 1968-72, has not been overturned. The working class has proved itself to be a barrier to world war. And while the danger remains that the more insidious process of decomposition could gradually overwhelm the class without capitalism having to inflict a frontal defeat upon it, the class still represents a historic obstacle to the full working out of capitalism's slide into military barbarism. More than this: it still retains the capacity to resist the effects of social decomposition through the development of its struggles and the consequent strengthening of its sense of identity and solidarity, which can offer a real alternative to the atomisation, the self-destructive violence and despair typical of this rotting system" (Point 13).
This concern to examine in detail, and eventually to criticise, the analyses of the present historic situation that exist within the proletarian political milieu, is part of our organisation's constant effort to define and clarify the responsibilities of revolutionary groups today - responsibilities which of course involve more than simply the analysis of the situation.
The responsibilities of revolutionary groups
The reports, resolution, and discussions at the Congress highlighted the existence today, after a decade of great difficulties, of a certain subterranean maturation of consciousness within the working class.
"The subterranean maturation of class consciousness, in a context where the historic course remains one towards class confrontations, expresses a process of reflection which - although it still only concerns a minority - is affecting wider sectors of the class, and is going deeper than during the period that followed 1989. The visible expressions of this maturation include:
- the numerical growth in the main organisations of the proletarian milieu, and in the environment of their sympathisers and contacts;
- the growing influence of the communist left in the swamp, including in parts of the anarchist milieu;
- the growing potential for the creation and development of proletarian discussion circles;
- certain experiments in regrouping minorities of combative workers, beginning to pose the problems of resistance to capital's attacks, but also the lessons of the struggles before 1989;
- some workers' struggles - though these remain for the moment the exception rather than the rule - where the class' self-activity and distrust for the trades unions is beginning to find expression" (Resolution on the activities of the ICC).
This situation lays new responsibilities on the groups who draw their origins from the Communist Left. An important part of the Congress work was therefore devoted to examining the evolution of these groups. This highlighted their difficulty in living up to their responsibilities. On the one hand, the cessation of the publication of Daad en Gedachte in Holland means that there is no longer any organised expression of the Dutch-German branch of the Communist Left (the "councilist" current). On the other hand, the groups which come from the tradition of the Italian Left (the various groups of the "Bordigist" tradition, each of which calls itself the International Communist Party, as well as the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party) remain closed in on themselves, or are increasingly withdrawing into sectarianism, as we have already pointed out two years ago following their refusal to adopt a common position against the war in Kosovo (see International Review n°98).
And yet it is important that the new elements turning towards the Communist Left should find there the tradition of the Left in its entirety: a tradition in which were intimately connected the greatest rigour at the level of its political positions, and an attitude of openness in discussion with other groups of the Communist Left. This is a precondition for these organisations to play a real part in the emerging process of a new development of consciousness in the proletariat.
This is why our resolution on the international situation includes the specific responsibilities of our own organisation within those of today's revolutionary current as a whole:
"The responsibilities facing the working class are immense: nothing short of the fate of humanity is in its hands. This in turn confers tremendous responsibilities on the revolutionary minority, whose essential task in the coming period will be:
- to intervene in the day to day struggles of the class, insisting on the need for solidarity and the involvement of the widest possible number of workers in any movement to resist capitalism's attacks;
- to explain with all the means available to it (press, leaflets, meetings etc), and in a manner that is both a accessible and profound, why capitalism is bankrupt, why all its 'solutions' - particularly those touted by the left and extreme left - are a fraud, and what the real proletarian alternative is;
- to assist the efforts of radical minorities - struggle groups at the workplace, discussion circles, etc - to draw the lessons of recent experience, prepare for new struggles to come, while at the same time renewing the links with the proletariat's historic traditions ;
- to intervene within the proletarian political milieu, which is entering a period of significant growth, insisting that the milieu acts as a real reference point for serious debate and clarification for all the new elements coming towards it.
The historic course towards class confrontations also provides the context for the formation of the world communist party. The proletarian milieu of today provides the matrix of the future party, but there is no guarantee that it will actually engender it. Without responsible and rigorous preparation by today's revolutionaries, the party will be still-born, and the massive class conflicts we are heading for will not take the vital step from revolt to revolution" (Point 15).
The Congress considered that our organisation can evaluate positively its ability to carry out its responsibilities during the last two years. Nonetheless, it concluded that the ICC, in common with the rest of the class, is subject to the damaging pressure of society's increasing decomposition and that consequently it should remain vigilant against the different expressions of this pressure, as much in its efforts at working out its own analyses and political positions as in its organisational life. More than ever, the fight to build a communist organisation, vital instrument of the proletariat's revolutionary struggle, is a permanent and daily one.