Editorial: The development of the class struggle is the only alternative to capitalism's tragic dead-end

Printer-friendly version

World events in the recent period strikingly illustrate the fundamental historic choices facing humanity today. On the one hand, the capitalist system has provided yet more proofs of the barbaric impasse into which it has led the whole of society. On the other, we see a confirmation of the development of the struggles and consciousness of the proletariat, the only force in society that can offer a future.

This alternative is not yet perceptible to the whole of the working class, or even to the sectors who have recently entered into struggle. In a society where “the dominant ideas are those of the dominant class” (Marx) only small communist minorities may, for the moment, be conscious of the real stakes that are contained in the present condition of human society. That’s why it is up to revolutionaries to reveal these stakes by denouncing all the attempts of the dominant class to conceal them.

Capitalist barbarism can only get worse

It is a long time since the world’s most powerful leader, President George Bush Snr, announced the end of the Cold War and, after the Gulf War of 1991, the opening of a period of “peace and prosperity”. Each new day presents us with a new military atrocity. Africa continues to be the theatre of bloody conflicts and terrible slaughters not only from weapons but also from the epidemics and famines that they provoke. When war seems to stop in one place it flares up even more fiercely in another, as we can see now in Somalia where the “Islamic Courts” are leading an offensive against the war lords (Alliance for the restoration of peace and against terrorism – ARPCT) allied to the United States. The US intervention in Somalia at the beginning of the 1990s only further destabilised the situation, and ended in 1993 with a bitter reverse for the United States. Although today the “Islamic Tribunes” seem ready to collaborate with American power it is clear that in Somalia, as in many other countries, the return to peace will be short-lived. Is it not the intention of the American administration to make “the struggle against terrorism one of the pillars of American policy towards the Horn of Africa” (declaration of the under-secretary of State for African Affairs, Mme Jendayi Frazer, 29 June) an indication of the impossibility of any future stabilisation of this region?

In fact a good proportion of the wars developing, if not beginning today are justified by this so-called “war against terrorism”. This is the case of the two major conflicts in the Middle East: the war in Iraq and that between Israel and the armed cliques in Palestine.

In Iraq the population has already suffered tens of thousands of deaths since the “end of the war” was proclaimed on May1st 2003 by George W Bush on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. The number of deaths of young American soldiers is also counted in the thousands (more than 2500) killed there since their government sent them to “keep the peace”. In fact not a day goes by without real bloodbaths in Baghdad and other Iraqi towns. This violence is not aimed, in the main, at the occupation troops but principally at the civil population to whom the victory of democracy is synonymous with permanent terror and poverty – worse than that suffered under Saddam Hussein. Iraq was invaded, following the outrage of 11 September 2001, in the name of the struggle against two threats:

  • the threat of Al Qaeda terrorism allegedly linked to Saddam Hussein’s regime;
  • that of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) allegedly at the disposal of the Iraqi dictator.

It has been established that the only WMD present in Iraq were those of the “coalition” forces led by the United States. As for the struggle against terrorism, which has become the new official crusade of the world superpower, it has been totally ineffective. The presence of American troops in Iraq has been the best means to stimulate suicide bombing among despairing young people fantasised by Islamic preachers. That is true not only in this country but pretty much everywhere in the world including in the most developed countries. The outrage on the London Underground, exactly a year ago, confirms the existence and development within the great capitalist cities of terrorist groups waging “Holy War”.[1]

The other major conflict of the Middle East, the Palestinian conflict, continues to languish in a military impasse that has belied the hopes of “peace” proclaimed by the dominant sectors of the world bourgeoisie following the Oslo Accords of 1992. On the one side, there is the apparatus of a rump state, the Palestinian Authority which daily displays its divisions openly in the street, settling scores between different armed cliques (like Hamas and Fatah). As a result it cannot keep order faced with the minor terrorist groups, showing therefore its incapacity to offer the least perspective to populations crushed by poverty, unemployment and terror. On the other side, a state armed to the teeth, Israel, whose essential policy as we see today is to unleash its military power against these terrorist actions, a military power whose victims are not so much the groups at the origin of these actions, but the civil populations; this in turn can only give new inspiration to the Jihad and to suicide bombings. In fact the State of Israel practices, on a smaller scale, a similar policy to that of its American big brother, a policy that far from re-establishing peace can only throw oil on the fire. [2]

Since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR at the end of the 1980s, which provoked the inevitable disappearance of the Western bloc, the United States has assumed the role of world cop to keep “order” and “peace”. This was the aim of George Bush Snr in his war against Iraq in 1991. This is how we analysed it on the eve of the war:

The war in the Gulf shows that, faced with the tendency towards generalised chaos which is specific to decomposition and which has been considerably accelerated by the Eastern bloc’s collapse, capitalism has no other way out in its attempt to hold its different components together than to impose the iron strait-jacket of military force. In this sense the methods it uses to try to contain an increasingly bloody state of chaos are themselves a factor in the aggravation of military barbarism into which capitalism is plunging.’ (“Militarism and decomposition”, International Review n°64, 1st Quarter 1991).

In the new historical period we have entered, and which the Gulf events have confirmed, the world appears as a vast free-for-all, where the tendency of ‘every man for himself’ will operate to the full, and where the alliances between states will be far from having the stability that characterised the imperialist blocs, but will be dominated by the immediate needs of the moment. A world of bloody chaos, where the American policeman will try to maintain a minimum of order by the increasingly massive and brutal use of military force.” (Ibid)

However there is a big gap between the world leaders’ speeches (even when they are sincere) to the reality of a system that obstinately refuses to bend to their will:

In the present period, (…) the barbarity of war will, far more than in previous decades, become a permanent and omnipresent element of the world situation (whether Bush and Mitterand with their prophecies of a ‘new order of peace’ like it or not) involving more and more the developed countries.”  (Ibid).

The world situation over the past 15 years has tragically confirmed this prediction. Military confrontations continue to overwhelm the populations of many parts of the world. The instability and tensions in the relations between countries have known no respite and tend to worsen still further today. The ambitions of states like Iran and North Korea follow in the footsteps of countries like India and Pakistan by trying to acquire atomic weapons and the means to launch them on a distant enemy. The firing of several “Taepodong” missiles on the 4th July by North Korea, and the impotent reaction of the “international community” to this veritable provocation underlines the growing instability of the world situation. Obviously North Korea is not a real threat to American power, even if its missiles can reach the Alaskan coast. But these provocations are eloquent of the incapacity of the American cop, stuck in the Iraqi quagmire, to maintain its “order”.

The military plans of North Korea appear as a real absurdity: a consequence of the “mental illness” of its supreme leader Kim Jong-Il who condemns his population to famine while he squanders the meagre resources of the country in mad and ultimately suicidal military programs. In reality the policy led by North Korea is only a caricature of that led by all the world’s states, beginning with the most powerful of them, America. The US Iraqi adventure has also been attributed to the stupidity of George W Bush jnr, his father’s son like Kim Jong-Il. In reality if certain political leaders are crazy, paranoid or megalomaniac (this was true for Hitler or “Emperor” Bokassa of Central Africa, although it seems not to be the case of George W, even if he is not a politician of high calibre) the “crazy” policies that they may carry out are only the expression of the convulsions of a system which itself has gone insane because of the insurmountable contradictions at the economic base.

Here is the world, the future, that the bourgeoisie offers us: insecurity, war, massacres, famines and as a bonus, the promise of an irreversible degradation of the environment whose consequences have begun to manifest themselves with climatic change whose effects risk being still more catastrophic than those of today (storms, hurricanes, deadly floods, etc). And one of the most revolting things is that all the sectors of the dominant class have the nerve to present the crimes for which they are responsible as animated by the love of great human principles: prosperity, liberty, security, solidarity, the struggle against oppression…

It is in the name of “prosperity” and “well being” that the capitalist economy whose sole motor is the search for profit, plunges millions of human beings into poverty, unemployment and despair at the same time as it systematically destroys the environment. It is in the name of “liberty” and “security” that American power and many others launch their military adventures. It is in the name of solidarity between civilisations or “national solidarity” faced with terrorist or other threats that it reinforces the ideological clothing of these projects. It is in the name of the struggle against the “American Satan” and his accomplices that the terrorist cliques carry out their actions preferably against totally innocent civilians.

In fact it is not the ruling class and its terrorist clones that will do anything to defend these values, but only the exploited class par excellence, the proletariat.

Workers’ struggles herald and prepare the future

In the middle of all this bloody barbarism which characterises today’s world, the only ray of hope for humanity resides in the resurgence of working class struggles on the world scale, seen especially over the past year. Because the economic crisis develops on a world scale and spares no country or region the proletarian struggle against capitalism tends to develop more and more at the planetary level. It embodies the future perspective of the overthrow of capitalism. In this sense the simultaneous nature of class combats of recent months, in the most industrialised states as much as in the countries of the “Third World”, are significant of the present recovery of the class struggle. After the strikes which paralysed Heathrow Airport in London and New York public transport in 2005, it was the SEAT workers in Barcelona, then the students in France, followed immediately by the steel workers in Vigo, Spain, who have entered massively into struggle since the spring. At the same moment in the Arab Emirates in Dubai a wave of struggles exploded among immigrant labourers working on the construction sites.

Faced with repression the airport workers in Dubai went spontaneously on strike at the end of May in solidarity with the construction workers. In Bangladesh nearly 2 million textile workers in the Dhaka region went on a series of massive wildcat strikes at the end of May and the beginning of June protesting against miserable wages and the unbearable conditions of life that capitalism makes them suffer. [3]

Everywhere, whether in the more developed countries like the US, Great Britain, France, and earlier Germany and Sweden, or in less developed countries like Bangladesh the working class is in the process of raising its head to develop its struggles. The enormous militancy that characterises the recent struggles reveals that everywhere the exploited class today refuses to submit to the unacceptable and barbaric logic of capitalist exploitation.

On the world scene, faced with the development of “every man for himself” and of the war of “all against all” amongst bourgeois cliques, the working class is in the process of opposing its own perspective: that of unity and solidarity against the incessant attacks of capitalism. It is this solidarity which has particularly marked all the workers’ struggles over the last year and shows a considerable advance in the class consciousness of the proletariat. Faced with the impasse of capitalism, of unemployment, redundancies and “no future” that this system promises to the workers and especially to its new generations, the exploited class is in the process of understanding that its sole strength resides in its capacity to oppose a massive unified front to the capitalist Moloch.

Thus two worlds confront each other. The first, after incarnating human progress against feudalism, has become the official defender of all the barbarism, brutality and despair which overwhelms the human race. For its part, even if it is not yet conscious of it, the working class represents the future, a future which will finally get rid of poverty and war. A future in which one of the most precious principles of the human species, solidarity, will become the universal rule. A solidarity which the recent workers’ struggles show has not been definitively buried by a society in decline, but which represents a future of combat.

Fabienne 8th July 2006

[1] That does not mean that the governments of the “democratic” countries cannot, in certain circumstances, let develop, or even encourage, the activity of such groups in order to justify their military undertakings or the reinforcement of repressive measures. The most obvious example of such policy is that of the American state before and after the outrages of 9/11. Only the naive can believe that they were not deliberately anticipated, encouraged (even organised in part) and hidden by the specialised organs of the USA (in this respect see our article: “Pearl Harbour 1941, Twin Towers 2001, the Machiavelism  of the bourgeoisie” in International Review nº108).

[2]  This moreover is the fear expressed today in certain sectors of the Israeli bourgeoisie faced with Tsahal’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in the name of freeing an Israeli soldier kidnapped by a terrorist group. 

[3] See our article “Dubai, Bangladesh: The working class revolts against capitalist exploitation” in Révolution Internationale nº370 and “Revolt of garment and textile workers in Bangladesh” in World Revolution n°296