The resolution on the international situation from the 14th congress, adopted in May 2001, focussed on the question of the historic course in the phase of capitalist decomposition. It correctly highlighted the acceleration both of the economic crisis and of the slide into war and barbarism across the planet, and examined both the problems and the potentialities of a proletarian response. The following resolution, proposed to the ICC's extraordinary conference of Easter 2002, is intended to supplement that report in the light of the events of 11th September and the ensuing "war against terrorism", which have largely confirmed the general analyses of the 2001 Congress.
1. Revolutionary Marxists can agree with US president Bush when he described the September 11 attacks as "an act of war". But they would add: an act of capitalist war, a moment in the permanent imperialist struggle that characterises the epoch of capitalist decadence. In its deliberate slaughter of thousands of civilians - the majority of them proletarians - the destruction of the Twin Towers was yet another barbaric crime against humanity to add to the long list that includes Guernica, London, Dresden and Hiroshima. The fact that the probable perpetrator of the crime was a terrorist group connected to a poverty-stricken state does not alter its imperialist character, because in this epoch all states - and petty warlords and proto-states - are imperialist.
But the criminal nature of September 11 resides not only in the act itself but in its cynical manipulation by the US state - a manipulation which clearly bears comparison with the conspiracy around Pearl Harbour, when Washington consciously allowed the Japanese attack to take place in order to have a pretext for entering the world war and mobilising the population behind it. The precise degree to which the US 'secret state' actively enabled the September 11 attacks to happen remains to be verified, although there is already a mass of elements pointing towards a ruthless Machiavellian intrigue. But what is beyond doubt is how the USA has taken advantage of the crime, using the real shock and outrage it provoked to mobilise support for an imperialist offensive of unprecedented reach.
2. Under the banner of anti-terrorism, American imperialism has spread the shadow of war across the entire planet. The USA's "war against terrorism" has devastated Afghanistan and threats to extend the war to Iraq are now becoming more and more explicit. But the long arm of the US is already reaching out towards other regions of the globe, whether or not they fall within Bush's 'Axis of Evil' (Iran, Iraq, North Korea). US troops have been dispatched to the Philippines to help the military combat 'Islamic insurgency', while less spectacular operations have already been launched in Yemen and Somalia. The new US defence budget is planned to rise by 14% this year and by 2007 will be 11% higher than the average cold war levels. These figures indicate the huge imbalance of global military spending: the USA now accounts for 40% of the world total; the current budget is well in excess of the combined annual defence budget of Britain, France, and 12 other NATO countries. In a recent Pentagon 'leak', the US has made it plain that it is quite prepared to use this terrifying arsenal - including its nuclear component - against a host of rivals. At the same time the war in Afghanistan has fired up tensions between India and Pakistan and in Israel/Palestine the carnage grows daily, with the US - again in the name of anti-terrorism - apparently backing Sharon's avowed aim of getting rid of Arafat, the Palestinian Authority and the possibility of any negotiated settlement.
In the immediate aftermath of 11 September, there was much talk about the possibility of a third world war. This term was much bandied about in the media and was generally conflated with the idea of a "clash of civilisations", a conflict between the modern "West" and fanatical Islam (mirrored in bin Laden's call for a Muslim jihad against the "Crusaders and Jews"). There were even echoes of this idea in certain sections of the proletarian political milieu, for example when the PCI (il Partito) wrote, in its leaflet responding to 11 September, "If the first imperialist war was propagandised according to the irredentist demagogy of national defence; if the second was anti-fascist and democratic; the third, all the more imperialist, is mystified into a crusade between opposed religions, against quixotic as well as unbelievable and doubtful figures of bearded Saladins".
Other sections of the proletarian milieu, such as the IBRP, more able to recognise that behind the US campaign against Islam lies the inter-imperialist conflict between the US and its principal great power rivals, in particular those in Europe, are nevertheless ill-placed to answer the media hype about world war three because they lack an understanding of the historical specificities of the period opened up by the disintegration of the two great imperialist blocs at the end of the 80s. In particular, they tend to assume that the formation of the imperialist blocs that would fight out a third world war is already well under way today.
Despite capital's contradictions, world war is not imminent
3. To understand what is new about this period, and thus to grasp the real perspectives facing humanity today, it is necessary to remind ourselves of what a world war actually means. World war is the expression of the decadence, the obsolescence of the capitalist mode of production. It is the product of the historic dead-end that the system reached when it established itself as a global economy at the beginning of the 20th century. Its material roots thus lie in an insoluble crisis as an economic system, although there is not a mechanical link between immediate economic indicators and the unleashing of such wars. On this basis, the experience of two open world wars, and the long preparations for the third world war between the American and Russian blocs, have demonstrated that world war means a direct conflict for control of the planet between military blocs made up of the leading imperialist powers. As a war between the most powerful capitalist states, it also requires the active mobilisation and support of the workers of those states; and this in turn can only be achieved once these main proletarian battalions have been taken on and defeated by the ruling class. A survey of the world situation shows that the necessary conditions for a third world war are absent for the foreseeable future.
4. This is not the case at the level of the world economic crisis. The wall blocking the advance of the capitalist economy is far higher and thicker today than it was in the 1930s. In the 1930s, the bourgeoisie was able to respond to the abrupt plunge into depression with the new instruments of state capitalism; today it is these very instruments which, while continuing to manage the crisis and prevent a total paralysis, are also profoundly aggravating the contradictions which ravage the system. In the 1930s, even if the remaining pre-capitalist markets could no longer allow for the 'peaceful' expansion of the system, there still remained large areas ripe for capitalist development (in Russia, Africa, Asia, etc). Finally, during that phase of capitalism's decline, world war, despite its terrible toll on millions of human beings and centuries of human labour, could still bring an apparent benefit (even though this was never the aim of the war on the part of the combatants): a long period of reconstruction which, in connection with the state capitalist policy of deficit spending, seemed to give the system a new lease of life. A third world war would mean quite simply the destruction of humanity.
What is striking about the course of the economic crisis since the end of the reconstruction period is that it has witnessed each "solution", each "miracle cure" for the capitalist economy being exposed as no more than quack medicines in an increasingly reduced lapse of time. The initial response of the bourgeoisie to the re-emergence of the crisis in the late 60s was to apply more of the same Keynesian policies, which had stood it in good stead during the reconstruction period. The "monetarist" reaction of the 1980s, presented as a "return to reality" (epitomised by Thatcher's dictum that a country, like a household, cannot spend more than it earns) completely failed to reduce the role of debt or state spending in the economy (speculation-fuelled consumer boom in the UK, Reagan's "Star Wars" programme in the US). The fictitious boom of the 80s based on debt and speculation, and accompanied by the dismantling of whole sectors of the productive, industrial economy, was brought to an abrupt halt with the crash of 1987. The crisis which followed this crash was in turn succeeded by a phase of "growth" fed by the debt that characterised the 90s. When the diseased nature of this growth was indicated by the collapse of the South East Asian economies towards the end of that decade, we were then treated to a panoply of new panaceas, most especially the "technological revolution" and the "new economy". The effects of these wonder-drugs were shortest lived of all: no sooner had the propaganda of the "internet-driven economy" been launched than it was exposed as a vast speculative fraud. Today the "ten glorious years" of US growth are officially over; the US has admitted it is in recession as have other powerhouses like Germany; and the state of the Japanese economy is causing increasing concern throughout the world's bourgeoisie, who even talk of Japan going the way of the USSR. In the peripheral regions, the catastrophic dive of the Argentine economy is itself only the tip of the iceberg: a whole queue of other countries are in precisely the same situation.
It is true that, in contrast to the 1930s, the onset of the crisis has not resulted in an immediate policy of "every man for himself" at the economic level, with each country sealing itself off behind protectionist battlements. This reaction undoubtedly accelerated the race towards war at that time. Even the break-up of the blocs, through which capitalism had also regulated its economic affairs in the 1945-89 period, had an impact essentially at the military/imperialist level. At the economic level, the old bloc structures were adapted to the new situation, and the overall policy has been to prevent any large scale collapse of the central economies (and to allow a "controlled" collapse of the most ailing peripheral ones) through massive recourse to loans administered by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. So-called "globalisation" to some extent represents the consensus of the most powerful economies to limit competition among themselves in order to keep themselves afloat and continue despoiling the rest of the world. Indeed the bourgeoisie frequently claims that it has learned its lesson from the 1930s and will never again allow a trade war to degenerate directly into a world war between the major powers; and there is a kernel of truth in this claim, insofar as the strategy of international "management" of the economy has been maintained in spite of all the national-imperialist rivalries between the great powers.
Nevertheless, the determination of the bourgeoisie to hold back the most destructive tendencies in the world economy (simultaneous depression and hyper-inflation, unrestrained competition between national units) is increasingly coming up against the contradictions inherent in this very process. This is most clearly the case with the central policy of debt, which is more and more threatening to blow up in capitalism's face. Despite all the optimistic humming about the next recovery, the horizon is shrinking and the future for the world economy becomes more uncertain every day. This can only serve to sharpen imperialist rivalries. The extremely aggressive stance now being adopted by the US is certainly linked to its economic difficulties. A US with an ailing economy will be compelled to rely more and more on its military strength to maintain its domination of the world's markets. At the same time, the formation of a "Euro-zone" contains the premises of a much keener trade war in the future, as the other major economies are compelled to respond to US commercial aggressiveness. The bourgeoisie's "global" management of the economic crisis is thus extremely fragile and will be increasingly undermined by both economic and military-strategic rivalries.
The absence of military blocs
5. At the level of the economic crisis alone, capitalism could have gone to war during the 1980s. During the period of the cold war, when the military blocs for such a conflict were certainly in place, the principal obstacle to world war was the undefeated nature of the working class. Today this factor remains, despite all the difficulties the working class has undergone in the period since 1989 - the phase we characterise as the decomposition of capitalism. But before re-examining this point, we have to consider a second historic factor which now stands in the way of a third world war: the absence of military blocs.
In the past, the defeat of one bloc in war has led rapidly to the formation of new blocs: the German bloc which fought the first world war had begun to re-form in earnest in the 1930s, while the Russian bloc formed itself immediately after the second world war. Following the collapse of the Russian bloc (through economic crisis rather than war directly), the inherent tendency of decadent capitalism to divide the world into competing blocs did reassert itself, with a newly re-united Germany arising as the only possible contender for leadership of a new bloc capable of challenging the hegemony of the USA. This challenge was marked in particular by German interference in the break-up of Yugoslavia, which precipitated almost a decade of warfare in the Balkans. However, the tendency towards the formation of a new bloc has been consistently held in check by other tendencies:
- the tendency towards each nation following its own "independent" imperialist policy since the break-up of the cold war bloc system. This factor has of course affirmed itself principally in the urge of the major powers of the former western bloc to free themselves from American domination; but it has also acted against the possibility of a new bloc cohering against the US. Thus, while it is true that the only candidate for such a bloc would be a German-dominated Europe, it is a mistake to argue that the present European Union or "Euroland" already constitutes such a bloc. The European Union is first and foremost an economic institution, even if it does have pretensions to playing a weightier political and military role; an imperialist bloc is primarily a military alliance. Above all, the European "Union" is very far from being united at this level. The two key players in any future Europe-based imperialist bloc, France and Germany, are constantly at loggerheads for deep-seated historical reasons; and the same goes for Britain, whose "independent" orientation is founded mainly on its efforts to play off Germany against France, France against Germany, the US against Europe, and Europe against the US. The strength of the tendency of "every man for himself" has been confirmed in recent years by the increasing willingness of third and fourth rate powers to play their own game, often in defiance of US policy (Israel in the Middle East, India and Pakistan in Asia, etc). Further confirmation of this trend is provided by the rise of "imperialist war-lords" like bin Laden, who are seeking to play a global rather than a merely local role even when they don't control a particular nation state;
- the overwhelming military superiority of the US, which has been increasingly obvious over the past decade, and which the USA has sought to reinforce through the major interventions it has carried out in this period: the Gulf, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan. Furthermore, through each of these actions, the US has increasingly discarded the pretence that it was acting as part of an "international community": thus, if the Gulf war was fought "legally" through the UN, the Kosovo war was fought "illegally" through NATO, and the Afghan campaign has been carried out under the banner of "unilateralism". The recent US defence budget has only underlined the fact that the Europeans are, in the words of NATO secretary general Lord Robertson "military pygmies", giving rise to numerous articles in the European press along the lines of "Is the US too powerful for its own good?" and explicit fears that the "transatlantic alliance" is now a thing of the past. Thus, while the "war against terrorism" was a response to growing tensions between the US and its major rivals (tensions which had expressed themselves in the row over Kyoto and "Son of Star Wars", for example), and is already further exacerbating these tensions, the results of American action has been to further underline how far away the Europeans are from being able to mount an effective challenge to US world "leadership". Indeed, the imbalance is so great that, in the words of our orientation text "Militarism and Decomposition", written in 1991, "the reconstitution of imperialist blocs is not only impossible for a number of years to come, but may very well never take place again: either the revolution, or the destruction of humanity will come first" (IR 64). A decade later the formation of a real anti-US bloc still faces the same formidable obstacles;
- the formation of imperialist blocs also requires an ideological justification, above all for the purposes of getting the working class on board. Such an ideology is lacking today. "Islam" has proved to be a powerful force for mobilising the exploited in certain parts of the world, but it has no significant impact on the workers of the capitalist heartlands; by the same token "anti-Islam" is hardly a sufficient basis for mobilising American workers to fight their European counter-parts. The problem for America and its main rivals is that they share the same "democratic" ideology, as well as the closely-connected ideology that they are in fact allies rather than rivals. It's true that a powerful current of anti-Americanism is being stirred up the European ruling class, but it is in no way comparable to the themes of anti-fascism or anti-Communism which have served to enlist support for imperialist war in the past. And behind these ideological difficulties for the ruling class resides the more profound problem: the working class is not defeated, and is unwilling to march tamely behind the war-standards of its class enemy.
The course towards class confrontations remains
6. The huge displays of patriotism in the US following the September 11 attacks made it necessary to re-examine this central plank of our understanding of the world situation. The atmosphere of intense chauvinism in the US has swept across all social classes and has been adroitly used by the ruling class not only to launch its "war against terrorism" in the short-term but also to carry out a longer term policy of putting an end to the so-called "Vietnam syndrome", ie, the reluctance of the US working class to sacrifice itself directly for the USA's imperialist adventures. There is no doubt that American capitalism has made important ideological inroads in this respect, as well as using the events to reinforce its whole apparatus of surveillance and repression (an achievement also echoed in Europe). Nevertheless, they do not represent a world-historic defeat for the working class, for the following reasons:
- the balance of forces between the classes can only be determined at the international level, and above all, by examining the state of play between bourgeoisie and proletariat in the European heartlands where the fate of the world revolution has been and will be decided. At this level, while September 11 gave the European bourgeoisie the opportunity to launch its own version of the anti-terrorist campaign, there has been no outpouring of patriotism comparable to what took place in the US. On the contrary, the USA's war in Afghanistan gave rise to considerable disquiet within the population of Europe, a fact partly reflected in the scale of the "anti-war" movement on this continent. This movement was certainly launched by the bourgeoisie, in part as an expression of its own reluctance to go along with the US war campaign, but also as a way of preventing any class opposition to capitalist war;
within the US, we can see that the patriotic tide is not
all-engulfing. Within weeks of the attacks there were strikes
among a number of different sectors of the American working class,
even when the latter were denounced as being "unpatriotic"
for defending their class interests.
Thus, the various factors identified as confirmations of the historic course towards class confrontations in the resolution on the international situation from the 14th ICC congress still stand:
- the slow development of class militancy, particularly in the central concentrations of the proletariat. This has been confirmed most recently by the railway strikes in Britain and the more widespread, if dispersed, strike movements in France
- the subterranean maturation of consciousness, expressed in the development of politicised minorities in numerous countries. This process continued and even developed during the Afghanistan war (eg, groups defending class positions against the war arising from the swamp in Britain, Germany, etc)
- the "negative" weight of the proletariat with regard to the drive to war. This is expressed in particular by the way the ruling class presents its major military operations. In the Gulf, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, the actual function of these wars is systematically hidden from the proletariat - not only at the level of the stated aims of the war (here, capitalism always hides its motives behind fine phrases) but even at the level of who the enemy really is. At the same time, the bourgeoisie is still very cautious about mobilising large numbers of the proletariat for these wars. Although the US bourgeoisie certainly scored some significant ideological successes at this level, even they were very concerned to minimise of US casualties in Afghanistan; in Europe, no attempt whatever was made to depart from the practise of sending professional troops only for the war.
War in capitalism's decomposition
7. For all these reasons, a third world war is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future. But this is no source of consolation. The September 11 events conveyed a strong sense of an impending apocalypse; and it remains the case that we are approaching the "end of the world" one way or another, if we mean by "world" the world of capitalism, a doomed system exhausting all possibilities of reform. The perspective announced by Marxism since the 19th century remains socialism or barbarism; but the concrete form which this threat of barbarism is taking is different from the one revolutionaries have grown used to during the 20th century, that is, the destruction of civilisation through a single world imperialist war. The entry of capitalism into the final phase of its decline, the phase of decomposition, is conditioned by the inability of the ruling class to "solve" its historic crisis in another world war; but it brings with it a new and more insidious danger, that of a more gradual slide into chaos and self-destruction. In such a scenario, imperialist war, or rather a spiral of imperialist wars, would still be the leading horseman of the apocalypse, but it would be riding alongside famine, disease, planet-wide ecological disaster and the unravelling of all social bonds. And unlike imperialist world war, for such a scenario to reach its conclusion, it would not be necessary for capital to take on and defeat the central battalions of the working class; we are already facing the danger that the working class could be overwhelmed by the whole process of decomposition in a more piecemeal fashion, little by little losing the capacity to act as a self-conscious force opposed to capital and the nightmare it is inflicting upon humanity.
8. The "war on terrorism" is thus very much a war of capitalist decomposition. While the economic contradictions of the system push inexorably towards a confrontation between the major centres of world capital, the path towards such a confrontation is blocked, and inevitably takes on another form, as in the Gulf , Kosovo and Afghanistan - that of wars in which the underlying conflict between the great powers is "diverted" into military actions against a much weaker capitalist power. In all three cases, the leading protagonist is the USA, the world's most powerful state, which, in contrast to the process which led to the two world wars of the 20th century, is compelled to go onto the offensive, precisely in order to prevent the emergence of a rival strong enough to oppose it openly.
9. At the same time, the "war against terrorism" is much more than a re-run of the previous US interventions in the Gulf and the Balkans. It represents a qualitative acceleration of decomposition and barbarism:
- it no longer presents itself as a short-lived campaign with clear aims in a particular region, but as an open-ended, almost permanent conflict which has the entire globe as its theatre of operations;
- it has much more global and grandiose strategic aims, which include a decisive US presence in central Asia aimed at ensuring its control not only of this region but of the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, and thus blocking off any possibility of European (especially German) expansion into this region. This amounts, in effect, to a strategy of encircling Europe. This explains why, in contrast to 1991, the US can now assume the task of toppling Saddam, since it no longer needs him as a local gendarme given its intention to impose its presence directly. It is within this context that US ambitions to control the oil and other energy supplies of the Middle East and Central Asia must be situated; this is not, as the leftists argue, a policy of short-term gain carried out on behalf of the oil companies by the US government, but a strategic policy aimed at ensuring undisputed control of essential energy routes in the event of future imperialist conflicts. At the same time, the insistence that North Korea is part of the "axis of evil" constitutes a warning that the US reserves the right to mount a major operation in the Far East as well - a challenge to both Chinese and Japanese ambitions in the region.
10. But if the "war against terrorism" reveals the urge of the USA to create a disciplined world order that is entirely, and perpetually, in line with its military and economic interests, it cannot avoid the destiny of all the other wars of this period: to be yet another factor in the aggravation of global chaos, this time on a much more advanced level than the previous wars.
- in Afghanistan itself, the US victory has done nothing to stabilise the country internally. Fighting has already broken out between the innumerable factions who have taken control since the collapse of the Taliban; US bombing raids have already been used to "mediate" in these disputes, while other powers have not hesitated to pour oil on the fire, most noticeably Iran, which directly controls some of the dissident factions;
- the "success" of the USA's campaign against Islamic terrorism has also led to a re-formulation of its policy towards the Arab countries; it feels much less inclined to placate them. Its support for Israel's ultra-aggressive attitude towards the Palestinian Authority has helped to finally bury the Oslo "peace process", taking military confrontations onto a new level. At the same time, disagreements over the presence of US troops on Saudi soil has led to sharp words with its once-docile client
- the defeat of the Taliban has placed Pakistan in a very difficult situation and the Indian bourgeoisie has tried to take full advantage of this. The heightening of war tensions between these two nuclear powers has the gravest implications for the future of this region, especially considering that Russia and China are also directly involved in its labyrinth of rivalries and alliances.
11. All these situations contain the potential of spiralling out of control, forcing the US to intervene again and again to impose its authority, but each time multiplying the forces which are ready to strike out on their own and contest this authority. This is no less true when it comes to the USA's main imperialist rivals. The "war against terrorism", after the initial charade of "standing shoulder to shoulder with the US", has already resulted in a visible aggravation of tensions between the US and its European allies. Concerns over the vast scale of the new US defence budget have been combined with open criticisms of Bush's "axis of evil" speech. Germany, France and even Britain have expressed their reluctance to get caught up in the USA's plans for an attack on Iraq, and have been particularly incensed by the inclusion of Iran in this "axis", since both Germany and Britain have used the Afghan crisis to increase their influence in Tehran. They cannot fail to recognise that while the US is angry with Iran for its efforts to fill the vacuum in Afghanistan, it is also using Iran as a stick with which to beat its European rivals. The next phase of the "war against terrorism", which seems likely to involve a major assault on Iraq, will widen these differences even more. We can see in all this a new manifestation of the tendency towards the formation of imperialist blocs centred around America and Europe. For the reasons given above, the counter-tendencies are in the ascendant, but this will not make for a more peaceful world. Frustrated by their military inferiority and by the social and political factors which make it impossible to confront the USA directly, the other great powers will redouble their efforts to contest US authority through the means available to them: proxy wars, diplomatic intrigues and so on. The American ideal of a world united under the Stars and Stripes is as impossible of realisation as Hitler's dream of a thousand year Reich.
12. In the period ahead, the working class, and above all the working class of the main capitalist countries, will be faced by an acceleration of the world situation at all levels. In particular, it will show in practise the profound connection between the economic crisis and the growth of military barbarism. The intensification of the crisis and of attacks on working class living standards do not merely coincide with the development of war and imperialist tensions. They mutually reinforce each other: the deadly impasse facing the world economy increases the pressure towards military solutions; the dizzying ascent of arms budgets calls for new sacrifices on the part of the working class; the devastation caused by war, unrelieved by any real "reconstructions" cause further dislocations in the economic machinery. At the same time, the necessity to justify these attacks will result in new ideological onslaughts against the consciousness of the working class. Thus in their struggle to defend their living standards, workers will have no choice but to understand the inner link between crisis and war, to recognise the historic and political implications of their combat.
The danger of decomposition for capitalism
13. Revolutionaries can have confidence that the historic course towards class confrontations remains open, that they have a vital role to play in the future politicisation of the class struggle. But they are not there to console their class. The greatest danger facing the proletariat in the period ahead is the erosion of its class identity, as a result of the ebb in class consciousness that followed the collapse of 1989, and through the pernicious advance of decomposition at all levels. If this process continues unchecked, the working class will be unable to have a decisive influence on the social and political upheavals which are being inexorably prepared by the deepening of the world economic crisis and the slide into militarism. Recent events in Argentina give us a clear picture of this danger: faced with a serious paralysis not only of the economy but also of the ruling class political apparatus, the working class was unable to pose itself as an autonomous force. Instead its embryonic movements (strikes, unemployed committees, etc) were drowned in an inter-classist "protest" which can offer no perspective and which provides the bourgeoisie with every possibility of manipulating the situation in its favour. It is particularly important for revolutionaries to be clear about this because the leftist chants about the development of a revolutionary situation in Argentina have seen similar developments in parts of the proletarian milieu and even the ICC itself, expressing a slide towards immediatism and opportunism. Our position on Argentina is not the result of any "indifference" towards the struggles of the proletariat in the peripheral regions. We have always insisted on the capacity of the proletariat in these areas, when it acts on its own terrain, to provide a leadership to all the oppressed. For example, the massive workers' struggles of 1969 in Cordoba offered a clear perspective to the other exploited strata in Argentina, and was an exemplary struggle for the world working class. On the contrary, the recent events, which some have mistaken for an advanced proletarian insurrectionary movement, have shown a few embryonic proletarian expressions completely unable to provide an anchor and a leadership to a revolt which has been quickly brought under the control of bourgeois forces. The Argentinean proletariat still has a huge role to play in the development of class struggles in Latin America; but its recent experience should not be confused with its future potential, which more than ever will be determined by the development of the workers' struggles on their own class terrain in the capitalist heartlands.
The responsibility of revolutionaries
14. Society as a whole is affected by capitalism's decomposition, and the bourgeoisie first and foremost. The proletariat is not spared these effects, and its class consciousness, its confidence in the future, its class solidarity are constantly under attack by the ideology and social practice engendered by this decomposition: nihilism, escapism into irrational and mystical ideologies, atomisation and the dissolution of human solidarity in favour of the false collective of gangs or clans. The revolutionary minority itself is not immune from the negative effects of decomposition, in particular through the resurgence of political parasitism, which though not specific to the period of decomposition is nonetheless powerfully stimulated by it. The difficulty that the rest of the proletarian political milieu experiences in becoming aware of the problem, but also the ICC's own lack of vigilance towards it, are serious weaknesses.1 To this must be added a tendency to fragmentation and closed-mindedness on the part of other groups in the milieu, justified by new sectarian theories, which are themselves marked by this period. If sufficient consciousness and political will do not appear within the milieu to combat these weaknesses, then the potential represented by a whole new generation of searching elements around the world runs the risk of being undermined. The formation of the future party depends on the proletarian milieu's ability to rise to its responsibilities.
Far from being a diversion from real political questions, the ICC's understanding of the phenomenon of capitalism's decomposition is the key for grasping the political difficulties confronting the working class and its revolutionary minorities. It has always been a specific task of revolutionary organisations to undertake a constant theoretical effort to clarify, both for themselves and for the whole working class, the questions posed by the needs of the class struggle. The necessity is still more imperious today if the working class - the only social force which, through its consciousness, its self-confidence, and its solidarity has the means to resist decomposition - is to live up to its historic responsibility for the overthrow of capitalism.
1st April, 2002
1 See the article in this issue on the ICC's Extraordinary Conference