* This manifesto was written in 1991. The principle of its publication, and its contents, were decided by the ICC's 9th International Congress in July, 1991. See International Review no. 67.
COMMUNIST REVOLUTION OR THE DESTRUCTION OF HUMANITY
Communism is dead! Workers, there is no point in trying to destroy capitalism, this system has definitively beaten its mortal enemy. This is what the bourgeoisie has repeated, over and over again, ever since the collapse of the Eastern bloc. Now that Stalinism is disintegrating in blood and filth, the bourgeoisie is once again serving up the biggest lie in history: that communism is the some thing as Stalinism, its mortal enemy and one of the most barbaric forms of capitalist exploitation. The ruling class in every country is out to convince those they exploit that they will struggle in vain to change the world. "We must be satisfied with what we have, for there is nothing else. And if capitalism were to be overthrown, then the society that followed it would be even worse." Since 1989, the ignominious collapse both of Stalinism, and of the bloc which it dominated, has been presented as "a great victory for Democracy and Peace". it is supposed to usher in a peaceful and prosperous "new world order" where "human rights" will at last be respected.
Hardly were the fine speeches over than the great, supposedly "civilised" countries unleashed, in January 1990, a horrifying war in the Middle East, burying hundreds of thousands of victims in a deluge of bombs, reducing Iraq to a sea of rubble and corpses, subjecting the population to the "punishment" that was supposed to be aimed at the leaders who exploit and oppress this same population.
Today the ruling class swears on the bible that "it's all over now". "This war was necessary", we are told, "to make sure that there is never another; by making sure that 'International law' is respected, if has opened the way to a united world, where conflicts con be settled peacefully under the aegis of the 'international community', the 'United Nations' or the like."
The world proletariat has remained paralysed in the face of these upheavals, and this tidal wave of barbarity and lies. Does this mean that the ruling class has won a definitive victory? Has it once and for all surmounted the contradictions which have undermined its system from the start, and especially during the last decades? Has it exorcised the spectre of communist revolution which has haunted it for more than a century? This is what it would like the exploited to believe. But do not be deceived. The "new" world the ruling class offers will be far worse, not better, than what went before. Nor has the working class said its last word. Even if it has been temporarily silenced, it still contains the strength to put on end to capitalism and the barbarity it has caused. More than ever, the proletarian combat is humanity's only hope for liberation from the chains of poverty, war, and all the other calamities which have befallen it. That is what revolutionaries must say to their class. This is the subject of our manifesto.
STALINISM IS NOT THE OFFSPRING OF THE REVOLUTION BUT THE INCARNATION OF THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Faced with the bourgeoisie's disgusting propaganda campaigns, the first duty of revolutionaries is to restore truth, and to remind the proletariat what really was, and will be, the communist revolution that today is accused of all humanity's woes. Especially, they must denounce the enormous lie which calls "communist" those Stalinist regimes which dominated half the world for decades, and show that these regimes were not even the bastard offspring of the proletarian revolution, but its gravediggers.
At the beginning of the 20th century, during and after World War I, the proletariat engaged in a titanic struggle which came close to destroying capitalism. In 1917, the revolution overthrew the bourgeois power in Russia. Between 1918 and 1923 in Germany, it fought repeatedly for the same goal. This revolutionary wave spread throughout the world, wherever a developed working class existed, from Italy to Canada, from Hungary to China. This was the world proletariat's response to capitalism's entry into its decadent period, and especially to the first expression of this period: World War I. There could be no more striking confirmation of what revolutionaries had already foreseen since the mid-19th century: heralded by the Communist Manifesto of 1848, the hour had come at last for the proletariat to carry out history's sentence on capitalism, on a system of production which would henceforth be incapable of ensuring humanity's progress.
THE DEFEAT OF THE WORKING CLASS AND THE CAPITALIST COUNTER-REVOLUTION
But the world bourgeoisie proved capable of containing this tremendous working class movement. Overcoming the terror inspired by its own imminent demise, the ruling class fought back like a cornered rat, throwing all its forces into the battle and committing the worst crimes without hesitation.
As if by magic, the ruling class silenced the imperialist enmities which had caused four years of war, to face the revolution with a united front. It defeated the insurgent labouring masses through cunning and repression, lies and massacres. It blockaded revolutionary Russia, delivering tens of millions of human beings over to famine, which of course it then blamed on the revolution itself. By giving massive support, both in men and in weapons, to the White armies of fallen Tsarism, it provoked a dreadful civil war, which left millions dead and the economy devastated. In this field of ruins, isolated by the defeat of the world revolution and decimated by fighting and famine, even though it had succeeded in beating back the armies of the counter-revolution, the Russian working class was unable to keep its grip on the power it had taken in hand in October 1917. Still less could it "build socialism". The workers had been defeated in other countries, and above all in the great industrial metropoles of Western Europe and North America. They could not but be defeated in Russia as well.
In Russia, the worldwide victory of the counter-revolution took the form, not of an overthrow of the state which had emerged after the revolution, but of this state's degeneration. Because the bourgeoisie had kept its grip on power at the world level, the country could not be freed from capitalism, and so it was the state which became the new form of the ruling class, and managing the national capitol and the exploitation of the working class. The Bolshevik Party which had stood in the vanguard of the 1917 revolution also degenerated, becoming more and more closely identified with the state. Within the Party, the best revolutionary fighters were progressively stripped of responsibility, excluded, exiled, imprisoned and finally executed by a whole layer of careerists and bureaucrats, who found in Stalin their best representative, and whose reason for existence was no longer the defence of the interests of the working class, but on the contrary the exercise of the most ignominious dictatorship over the workingo class, by lies and repression, so as to preserve and consolidate the new form of capitalism which had been set up in Russia.
The other "Communist" parties of the International went the same way. The defeat of the world revolution and the resulting disarray in the ranks of the working class encouraged the development of opportunism within these parties, in other words of a policy which sacrificed the revolutionary principles and the historic perspectives of the working class movement to illusory short-term "successes". This evolution within the Communist parties allowed the rise of elements more concerned with making a career within the machinery of bourgeois society, in Parliament or in local government, than with fighting alongside the working class to defend its interests. The parties became infested with the opportunist disease and fell under the control of bureaucratic careerists. Under the pressure of the Russian state, which used lies and intimidation to promote these bureaucrats to their leadership, the Communist parties first expelled all those who remained faithful to the revolutionary cause and then betrayed the proletariat and passed over, arms and baggage, into the bourgeois camp. Like the Stalinist-dominated Bolshevik party, they became the vanguard of the counter-revolution in their respective countries. They played this role all the better in that they continued to present themselves as the parties of the communist revolution, and the heirs of Red October. Just as Stalin donned the robes of Lenin's prestige to consolidate his power in the degenerating Bolshevik party and to eliminate the most sincere militants devoted to the working class cause, so the Stalinist parties usurped the prestige that the Russian revolution and the Bolshevik fighters had gained in the eyes of the world working class, the better to sabotage the workers' struggles.
The identification of Stalinism with communism is without doubt the greatest lie in history. In reality, Stalinism is communism's worst enemy, indeed its very opposite.
COMMUNISM CAN ONLY BE INTERNATIONALIST. STALINISM IS THE TRIUMPH OF CHAUVINISM
From the beginning, internationalism, the worldwide solidarity of the working class, has been the first principle of communist theory. "Workers of all countries, unite!" was the watchword of the Communist Manifesto drawn up by Marx and Engels, the two founders of communist theory. The same Manifesto declared: "The workers have no country." And if the internationalist principle has always been so important in the workers' movement, this is not because of same false prophet's utopian ideas, but because the proletarian revolution, which alone can put an end to capitalist exploitation, and to all forms of the exploitation of man by man, can only take place on an international scale.
Engels had already forcefully expressed this idea in 1847: "The communist revolution (...) will not be a purely national revolution; it will take place at the same time in all the civilised countries (...) It will also exercise on all the other countries of the planet a considerable influence, and will accelerate the course of their development. It is a universal revolution; it will therefore have a universal terrain" (Engels, Principles of Communism).
The Bolsheviks defended the same principle tooth and nail during the revolution in Russia: "The Russian revolution is only a detachment of the world socialist army, and the success and triumph of the revolution which we have carried out depends on the action of this army. This is a fact that none of us forgets (...) The Russian proletariat is conscious of its revolutionary isolation, and clearly sees that a precondition and fundamental premise of its own victory is the united intervention of the workers of the whole world" (Report Delivered at a Moscow Gubernia Conference of Factory Committees, July 23, 1918).
This is why the idea that Stalin put forward in 1925, after Lenin's death, of "building socialism in one country" is nothing other than a shameful betrayal of the most elementary principles of the workers' movement. Where the Bolsheviks, along with all revolutionaries, had fought for internationalism, especially during World War I which came to an end precisely thanks to the action of the workers in Germany and Russia, Stalin and his accomplices made themselves spokesmen for the most abject nationalism.
In Russia, under the pretext of defending the "socialist fatherland", the old chauvinist propaganda which had served the white armies in their combat against the proletarian revolution a few years previously were resuscitated. During World War II, Stalin took pride in his country's participation in the imperialist slaughter, and in the 20 million Soviet dead for "the victory of the fatherland". In other countries, the Stalinist parties dutifully mingled the notional anthem with the Internationale, the universal song of the proletariat, and the red flag, which for more than a century had been the banner of workers' struggle, appeared alongside the nationalist rags carried by police and troops as they massacred the workers. And in the chauvinist hysteria which gripped the German-occupied countries at the end of the war, the Stalinist parties claimed pride of place, and took the lead in assassinating, as "traitors to the nation", those who had tried to defend internationalist principles.
Nationalism against internationalism: there is the proof that Stalinism has nothing to do with communism. But that is not all.
COMMUNISM IS THE ABOLITION OF EXPLOITATION BY THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT. STALINISM IS THE DICTATORSHIP OVER THE PROLETARIAT TO MAINTAIN ITS EXPLOITATION
Communism con only be established by the dictatorship of the proletariat, in other words by the class power of the wage workers over society as a whole. The working class exercises this power through the workers councils, that is to say through sovereign mass meetings of workers which have the responsibility of taking all the essential decisions concerning the working of society, and which exercise a permanent control over those they have delegated to tasks of coordination and centralisation. These were the principles of the "soviet" power ("soviet" being the Russian for "council") set up in Russia in 1917. Stalinism is the utter negation of such a regime. The only dictatorship under Stalinism is not of the proletariat, but over the proletariat, for the benefit of a tiny minority of bureaucrats, based on terror, police, spies, concentration camps, and the massacre of any workers who try to oppose it, as we saw in Hungary in 1956, or in Poland in l97O and 1981.
Finally, communism means the end of the exploitation of man by man, the end of society's division into privileged and exploited classes. Under Stalinism, the workers never ceased to be exploited. Their blood, sweat, and tears served no other purpose than the Party leaders' continued enjoyment of their privileges: their luxurious private houses, while workers were crammed into wretched apartments, their special shops which lacked for nothing while workers had to queue for hours before desperately empty state shops. Moreover, production in communist society is fundamentally oriented towards the satisfaction of human need: the ex-USSR and countries like it gave a fine example of "communism" by devoting the better part of their production, even more than in the officially capitalist countries, to the most sophisticated and murderous armaments.
All the regimes which ruled for decades in the name of the working class, of communism or socialism, reveal all the essential characteristics of capitalism. And this, for the very good reason that they are indeed entirely capitalist, even if it is a very fragile form of capitalism, even if the "private" bourgeoisie as we know it in the West has been replaced by a state bourgeoisie, and even if the universal tendency towards state capitalism which has affected all capitalist countries since the system entered its decadent phase, has taken on its most caricatured and aberrant forms under these regimes.
"DEMOCRACY": STALIN'S ACCOMPLICE
The regime which took power in Russia after the defeat of the October revolution was not only a variant of capitalism, but the spearhead of the counter-revolution, and this is why it was welcomed with open arms by the very same ruling class which only a few years before had fought the Soviets with such ferocity. In 1934, the USSR was accepted as a member of the 'League of Nations' (the UN's predecessor), which revolutionaries like Lenin had described as a "den of thieves" when it was founded. This was the sign that Stalin had become "respectable" in the eyes of the some international ruling class that had denounced the Bolsheviks of 1917 as a gong of bloodthirsty cutthroats. The imperialist brigands recognised Stalin as one of their own. Henceforth, it was those revolutionaries who resisted the advance of Stalinism who were to be subjected to repression by the whole international bourgeoisie. Trotsky , one of the main leaders of 1917, became an "undesirable alien" all over the world. After being forced to flee the USSR in 1929, he was expelled from one country after another, subjected to constant police surveillance. The Western bourgeoisies proved only too happy to repeat all the disgusting slanders of the Stalinists. When, in 1936, Stalin began to organise the "Moscow trials", and Lenin's comrades in arms appeared in the dock, broken by torture, to accuse themselves of the most heinous crimes and even to beg for "exemplary punishment", the bourgeoisie worldwide insinuated that "where there's smoke there's fire". It was with their complicity that Stalin carried out his monstrous crimes, and that he exterminated in his prisons and concentration camps tens of thousands of communists, and more than ten million workers and peasants. And Stalin's most zealous accomplices were precisely the "democrats", and especially the social-democrats: the very same that today denounce Stalin's crimes the most violently and put themselves forward as models of virtue.
Nor is the "democracies'" complicity with Stalin, which they are so careful to hide today, their only crime. In reality, the democratic ruling class is every bit as expert in atrocity as its Stalinist or fascist counterparts.
"DEMOCRACY" IS THE HYPOCRITICAL MASK FOR THE BOURGEOISIE'S BLOODY DICTATORSHIP
Revolutionaries have always denounced the lie of "democracy" in bourgeois society. This form of government where power belongs officially to the "people" has in reality never been anything but an instrument for the bourgeoisie's power over the exploited classes.
Bourgeois democracy has distinguished itself from the beginning by its dirty work. The great American democracy of Washington, Jefferson and Co which is presented as a model for others to follow, maintained slavery until 1864. And when slavery was abolished, because the exploitation of the working class proved more profitable than the exploitation of slaves, it was another exemplary democracy - Great Britain which supported the Confederate slave states in the Civil War. During the same period, the French Republic - heir to the revolution of 1789 and the "declaration of the rights of man" - distinguished itself by crushing the 1871 Paris Commune: in one week, more than ten thousand workers were killed by the republican army.
But these are mere child's play alongside the crimes of the "democratic" regimes during the century.
THE CRIMES OF BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY DURING THE 20TH CENTURY
World War I was fought for the most part between perfectly "democratic" governments, with the zealous support of most of the "socialist" parties: it left 20 million dead. The same governments, with "socialists" as accomplices, or even in power, bloodily crushed the first revolutionary wave which had put an end to the first World War. In Berlin in 1919, on the pretext of an attempted escape, the freikorps under the "socialist" Noske's command summarily executed two of the revolution's foremost leaders: Karl Liebknecht, with a bullet in the back of his head, and Rosa Luxemburg, beaten to death with rifle-butts. At the same time, the social-democratic government gave orders to massacre thousands of workers, with the aid of 16,000 machine-gins hastily returned to the Germans by the victorious French army in 1918. The same "democracies", with Britain and the USA in the lead, gave unswerving support to the Tsarist troops, seeking to restore one of the most backward and brutal regimes of the day, in order to combat the revolutionary proletariat in Russia.
Nor was the inter-war period spared the crimes of virtuous "democracy". Colonial massacres flourished, and it was the oh-so democratic Great Britain which inaugurated in 1925 the kind of atrocity which was to condemn Saddam Hussein: the use of poison gas against the Kurds. But the democrats really showed what they are capable of in World War II, disguised as a crusade against dictatorship and the horrors of Nazism.
Once the war was over, the Allied propaganda really went to town over German "war crimes". This was hardly difficult: the Nazi police dictatorship and extermination camps were worthy of Stalin. Both had plumbed the depths of barbarity possible under decadent capitalism. The Nazi regime was put in power "democratically", through parliament, by the same German bourgeoisie which had previously put the social-democrats in power in order to crush the workers' revolution. A true offspring of the counter-revolution unleashed on the proletariat ten years before, Nazism came to symbolise, especially with the massacre of six million Jews, just what the ruling class is capable of when it feels itself under threat. Those responsible for the Nazis' crimes were put on trial at Nuremburg: some were executed. But there were no trials to judge Churchill, Roosevelt or Truman, or any of the Allied military, who had been responsible for the systematic bombardment of German towns, and especially of the working class districts, at the cost of tens of thousands of civilian casualties. There was no trial because they were on the winning side - for those who had given the order to firebomb Dresden on 13th and 14th February 1945, turning the town into an immense inferno which in a few hours killed 200,000 people, and this despite the fact that the war was already won, and that they knew the town had no military installations and had in consequence become a centre for refugees and war wounded. There was no trial for the American "democrats" who in August 1945, for the first and so far the only time in history, used the atomic bomb against the Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed first 75,000 and then 40,000 outright in a matter of seconds, and then thousands of others in dreadful suffering during the aftermath. The same "democrats", Churchill, Roosevelt and Co., who knew perfectly well what was happening in the Nazi death camps, did nothing to help the Jews, even refusing point-blank all the German government's proposals to free them by the hundred thousand. With utter cynicism these "humanists" explained that transporting and housing all these Jews would hinder the war effort.
THE CRIMES OF "DEMOCRACY" FOLLOWING WORLD WAR II
The victors of World War II did not hesitate for a moment to use the same methods as the Nazis they denounced, under the banner of morality, freedom, and peoples' right to self-determination. Massive reprisals against the civilian population were not a monopoly of the Nuremburg accused: they were employed in the colonial or neo-colonial wars of "democratic" powers like the USA, guiding light of the "free world", or France, the "birthplace of the rights of man". On 8th May 1945, the very day that the German government surrendered, the French coalition government of Christian democrats, "socialists", and "communists" killed 20,000 people in the bombardment of the Algerian towns of Constantine and Sétif, where a part of the population had taken the government's fine words about "national liberation" a little too literally. Two years later, the same government repeated itself in Madagascar, leaving 80,000 dead. As for the torture used by the Gestapo, and the "disappearances" that are today being laid at the door of the "goons" in Argentina and Chile, the French authorities used the same methods for years in Algeria and Indochina, to such a point that many soldiers and policemen resigned in disgust. During the 1950s, the British "mother of parliaments" conducted a war against the Mau-Mau peasant revolt in Kenya with all the most sophisticated weapons of the modern state, leaving 30,000 dead. The memory of the disgusting slaughter unleashed by the American army in Vietnam is still fresh: villages burned with napalm, peasants gunned down from helicopters, the extermination of the entire population of My Lai: such are the great deeds of the champions of "democracy".
In the final analysis, there is no fundamental difference between democracy and other forms of bourgeois government. It has nothing to learn when it comes to oppressing the exploited, massacring whole populations, torturing its opponents, and lying to those it rules. And it is precisely in this that its superiority to open dictatorships lies. Stalinism and fascism lie systematically, but democracy goes still further: it commits the same crimes, it lies on a grand scale, but all in the name of Virtue, Law, and the Rights of Man, organising the "critique" of its own acts by "responsible" people, in other words by its own best defenders. Democracy is nothing but the fig leaf which hides from the exploited the bloodstained and implacable dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
This is why democracy is so dangerous for the working class. This is why workers today must not let themselves be taken in by the so-called "victory of democracy over communism", or by the "new world order" which this "victory" supposedly heralds.
MORE THAN EVER, MILITARY BARBARISM IS THE ONLY, "PERSPECTIVE" THAT CAPITALISM HAS TO OFFER.
The Gulf War between Iraq and the "coalition" led by the USA show us, once again, what all the fine "democratic" speechifying is worth. Once again, we have seen the great "civilised" countries at work: hundreds of thousands of dead in Iraq; the use of the most murderous and barbaric weapons, such as the 7-ton bombs, or fuel-air combustion bombs which asphyxiate their victims far more "efficiently" than the gas used by Saddam Hussein. We have seen how the great "advanced", "democratic" countries hove brought down famine and epidemics on the survivors by systematically destroying all kinds of civilian objectives: grain silos, food factories, sewage treatment plants and waterworks, and hospitals. We hove found out - after it was all over - that the endless propaganda about the "clean war", constantly broadcast by a servile media, in reality only served to hide a war every bit as "dirty" as any other: tens of thousands of soldiers buried alive in their trenches, "carpet bombing" which missed its target three times out of four, but caused dreadful carnage in the surrounding population, the assassination of 800 people in a civilian air-raid shelter in Baghdad, the colossal massacre of fleeing soldiers, or even civilians, as on the Kuwait-Basra road on the last day of the war. We have seen the incredible cynicism of the "democratic" bourgeoisie, which let Saddam Hussein butcher the same Kurdish population that they had themselves called on to rebel under the leadership of their "own" nationalist cliques; we have seen the ruling class plumb the depths of hypocrisy once the massacre was over, when they organised their "humanitarian aid".
THE LIES OF THE RULING CLASS
The Gulf War also showed that the democratic governments' fine talk about "freedom of the press" and the "right to be informed" is a lie. Throughout the war, there was only one truth: the truth of the state. The only pictures were those supplied by the military headquarters. The so-called "freedom of the press" appeared in its true colours: a hypocritical sham. As soon as the first bombs were dropped, it gave way openly, in all the media and as in any totalitarian regime, to the scrupulous and servile carrying out of government orders. Once again, Democracy has shown its real face: an instrument of the ruling class's undivided dictatorship over the exploited. And of all the foul lies with which we were inundated, the prize goes to the one which presented this carnage as a "war for peace", destined to install, at lost, a "peaceful and prosperous new world order".
Seldom has the ruling class come out with a more bare-faced lie. Each time that decadent capitalism has launched a new imperialist massacre, they have sung us the same song. World War I, with its 20 million dead, was supposed to be the "war to end war". World War II come twenty years later, and was still more abominable: 50 million dead. This time, the winners presented it as a "definitive victory for civilisation": since then, an endless string of wars has killed as many, not to mention all those dead as a direct result of the wars in famines and epidemics.
The working class must not fall into this trap: there can be no end to war under capitalism. It is not a question of governments' "good" or "bad" policies, nor of the "wisdom" or "madness" of state leaders. The whole capitalist system is based on competition between different branches of capital, and war is an inseparable part of it. The system's definitive economic bankruptcy can only lead to growing rivalries between its different sectors, where the commercial wars between nations cannot help leading to real war. Let there be no mistake: the economic causes behind the two World Wars have not disappeared. On the contrary, never before has the capitalist economy been in such dire straits. This system's time is up; it must be overthrown, like the societies that preceded it: feudalism, and the slave system. This system's survival has become a complete absurdity for human society, an absurdity like the imperialist war itself, which mobilises all the wealth of science and human labour, not to benefit humanity, but on the contrary to destroy this wealth, to pile up ruins and corpses. And don't let them try to tell us that the collapse of the Russian empire and the end of the world's division into two enemy blocs means an end to war. True, there is no question for the moment of a new world war between the two great powers and their respective allies. But the end of the blocs has not put an end to the contradictions of capitalism. The crisis is still there. What has disappeared is the discipline that the great powers imposed on their vassals. And since the rivalries between nations can only get sharper with the inevitable aggravation of the crisis, the only perspective before us is assuredly not a "new world order", but an ever more catastrophic "world disorder".
CAPITALISM'S FUTURE: MORE WARMONGERING BARBARITY
The end of the two blocs will also mean the end of any restraint in each country's pursuit of its own imperialist interests. The rule will be "look after number one, and devil take the hindmost", as each national bourgeoisie uses every possible means - and military means in particular - to protect its own interests at its rivals' expense, and to fight for even the most insignificant market, the least scrap of influence and power. In reality, the future that capitalism has to offer humanity is the greatest chaos history has ever seen. And when the world's greatest power proposes to take on the role of "world cop" to "preserve order", all it is able to do is to unleash still more disorder and bloodshed, as we saw in the Middle East at the beginning of 1991. The US crusade against Iraq was undertaken in the name of "International Law" and "World Order". It turned out to be a punitive expedition, whereby the most powerful gangster - the United States - showed that it would kill to uphold its law, the law of the Mafia, against other petty gangsters like Saddam Hussein. The only difference is that the Mafiosi kill each other, and in small numbers, whereas statesmen kill first and foremost the populations ruled by their adversaries, and on a grand scale. As for the "new world order", we have seen how it has been "preserved" since the Gulf War. In the Middle East, the war has caused new disorder, such as the Shi'ite and Kurdish uprisings which threatened the stability of the entire region, in Turkey, Iran, Syria and the southern USSR a threat which was only averted by the wholesale massacre of these populations. In the rest of the world, chaos has not ceased to grow, as on the African continent, which is sinking into ethnic confrontations and massacres, not to mention the famines and epidemics which these will inevitably encourage. Chaos no longer spares Europe itself. Yugoslavia is falling bloodily apart. The Soviet dinosaur is in its death agony, with a putsch worthy of a banana republic, the secession of most of its member states, the explosion of nationalism which is threatening to repeat the Yugoslav situation but on a continental scale, with, to top it all, tens of thousands of nuclear warheads liable to fall into the hands of the bourgeoisie's most irresponsible representatives, if not of the local mafia.
Lastly, the different powers of the old Western bloc are beginning to tear themselves apart. Thus we have seen the German bourgeoisie, with its Austrian accomplice, fanning the flames in Yugoslavia by encouraging the Slovene and Croat separatists, while the other Western bourgeoisies are trying to keep the country from falling to pieces. With the collapse of the USSR and its military power, yesterday's allies no longer need to close ranks. Their imperialist rivalries, their eager search for the slightest economic, political, or military sphere of influence, can only lead to an increasingly bitter free-for-all. And this is why the USA inflicted such destruction on Iraq. The latter was not the only target. The display of America's overwhelming military power, the obscene exhibition of the most sophisticated and murderous weapons in action, was not destined merely for Iraq, or for other third-rate countries which might have been tempted to follow its example. The American "message" was fundamentally addressed to its own "allies", whether those it had dragged into the war (like France, Italy, or Spain for example), or those it forced to bear the cost (Germany, Japan): beware, all those who might think of questioning the "new world order" and put in question the present balance of forces, in other words oppose the supremacy of the world's principal power.
And so the world appears as a huge free-for-all, where behind the fine speeches about the "world order", international "peace" and "cooperation", "solidarity" and "justice" for the poorest, every nation is in fact out for itself; where sharpening imperialist rivalries find expression not just in economic competition, but in war. Faced with this bloody chaos, which can only get worse, supporting the "new world order" can mean nothing other than the increasingly frequent and brutal use of military power, more massacres perpetrated by the great imperialist powers, and in the first place by the USA, "democracy's" guiding light, and the world's cop.
All this chaos that we see around us, the wars, the countries plunged into bloody inter-community confrontations, the endless massacres as barbaric as they are absurd, shows that the world has entered a new historic period dominated by unprecedented convulsions. The "democratic" bourgeoisie wants us to believe that the abrupt collapse of the Stalinist regimes was solely due to the definitive bankruptcy of their systems, their economies. They are lying, once again. It is true that the Stalinist variety of state capitalism was particularly aberrant, fragile, and ill-equipped to confront the world economic crisis. But this huge historic event, the explosion of an entire imperialist bloc in a few weeks during the autumn of 1989, and now the equally sudden dislocation of the onetime bloc leader, the USSR, which only two years ago was still the world's second imperialist power, reveals the extent of the rot, not just in the Stalinist regimes, but also and above all throughout the capitalist system.
DECOMPOSITION: THE FINAL PHASE OF CAPITALIST DECADENCE
The decadence of capitalism, since the beginning of the 20th century, has been the most tragic period in humanity's history. Never has human society seen slaughter on such a scale as during the last two World Wars. Never has scientific progress been used on such a scale in the service or destruction, death, and human misery. Never has such an accumulation of wealth gone side by side with, indeed created, such famine and suffering as that of the Third World countries during the last decades. But it seems that humanity has not yet plumbed the depths. The decadence of capitalism means the system's death-agony, but this agony itself has a history: today, we have reached its ultimate phase, the phase of general decomposition. Human society is rotting where it stands.
Since the end of World War II, capitalism has managed to push the most barbaric and sordid expressions of its decadence onto the under-developed countries. Today, these same expressions are developing in the heart of the advanced countries. The absurd inter-ethnic conflicts, where whole populations massacre each other for a difference of religion, language or even folklore seemed for years to belong wholly to the Third World: to India, Africa, or the Middle East. Today they are unleashed in Yugoslavia, only a few hundred kilometres from the industrial heart of Austria and Northern Italy. And let nobody try to tell us that the nationalist movements in Yugoslavia, or in the old Russian empire, represent a "last demand for liberty", or for the establishment of a "progressive" national state, freed from the chains which hindered its development. It is true that during the last century, certain national struggles had just such a progressive character in opening the way to the formation of viable new territorial entities, overcoming the particularist barriers bequeathed by the feudal regime. This was the case, in particular, for the movements which created national states in Italy and Germany. But since the beginning of the century when capitalism entered its decadent period, struggles for "national independence" have lost any progressive character, and have become mere pawns in the confrontation between great powers and imperialist blocs. Today, even if same of the national movements in the Balkans or Central Europe are being fanned surreptitiously by one or other of the powers, fundamentally they are all still more absurd: now that the economy has reached an unprecedented degree of internationalisation, and that the bourgeoisie in the advanced countries is trying unsuccessfully to create a wider framework to manage the economy than that of the nation (the EEC for example), the dislocation of the states that emerged from World War II into a multitude of little states is a pure aberration, even from the point of view of capitalist interests. As for the populations of these regions, their fate will not be better than before, but worse: increased economic disorder, subjection to chauvinistic and xenophobic demagogues, feuds and pogroms amongst communities which have lived together for generations, and above all the tragic division of different fractions of the working class. More poverty, oppression, terror, and the destruction of proletarian class solidarity against the exploiters: this is what nationalism means today. And the explosion of nationalism today is indeed the proof that decadent capitalism has taken a new step into decomposition.
But the nationalist hysteria unleashed in parts of Europe is far from the only sign that the advanced countries are falling into the same barbarity that capitalism used to be able to push out to its periphery.
BARBARISM REACHES THE HEART OF CAPITAL
To make workers in the more developed countries think that they had no reason to revolt, the media used to go to the slums of Bogotá or the streets of Manila to do reports on child prostitution or criminality. Today, twelve-year-old children in the richest country in the world, in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, are prostituting themselves, or killing for a few grams of crack. The USA's homeless are numbered in hundreds of thousands: only a stone's throw from Wall Street, the high temple of world finance, masses of human beings sleep in cardboard boxes on the street, as they do in Calcutta. Corruption and prevarication enshrined in law once seemed the speciality of "Third World" leaders. Today, hardly a month goes by without a new scandal revealing the crooked trickery of the entire political apparatus in the "advanced' countries: repeated resignations of government ministers in Japan, where finding a "presentable" politician has become a real "Mission Impossible"; the CIA's large-scale involvement in the drugs trade; the Mafia's penetration to the highest levels of the state in Italy; French parliamentary deputies voting themselves out of prison with a general amnesty. Even in Switzerland, a country whose probity is legendary, a justice and police minister have been found guilty of laundering drug-money. Corruption has always been part of bourgeois society, but today it has reached epic proportions of rottenness and decadence.
In fact, all social life seems completely out of joint, plunging into absurdity, filth, and despair. The whole of human society, on every continent, is more and more oozing barbarity out of every pore. Famines are developing in the Third World, and will soon reach the once so-called "socialist" countries, while in Western Europe and North America food stocks are being destroyed, and farmers are paid to cultivate less land or being penalised if they produce more than their quotas. In Latin America, killer diseases like cholera, once eradicated, have returned and reached epidemic levels. All over the world, floods and earthquakes have killed tens of thousands, even though the means exist to build dykes and houses which could prevent such holocausts. At the same time, it is not even possible to accuse "fate" or "nature" of provoking disasters such as Chernobyl where in 1986 the explosion of a nuclear power station killed hundreds (if not thousands) of people and contaminated whole regions, or in the more developed countries, of causing mortal catastrophes in the great cities: 60 dead in a Paris railway station, more than 31 killed at the Kings Cross Underground fire in London. The system is also proving incapable of preventing the destruction of the environment, acid rain, nuclear and other pollution, the greenhouse effect, or the spread of the desert, all of which threaten the continued survival of humanity itself.
At the same time, we ore being subjected to an irreversible degradation of social life: crime and violence are growing everywhere, while drug addiction becomes ever more alarming, especially in the young generations, signs of the atomisation, isolation and despair that are invading the whole of society.
CAPITALISM CAN ONLY LEAD TO THE DESTRUCTION OF HUMANITY
If society has reached such a degree of putrefaction, if despair has become such a dominant feeling within it, this is because capitalism more than ever before is absolutely incapable of offering humanity the least perspective. For more than 20 years, the system has been stricken by an acute and insurmountable crisis of its economy. During the 1930s, the economic crisis led to world war. This was not a "solution" to the crisis, but because the working class was still suffering from the most terrible defeat in its history, it was incapable of preventing the bourgeoisie from organising all society's political and economic strength for imperialist slaughter. Today, this possibility is no longer open to capitalism. The first signs of the crisis, at the end of the 1960s, immediately provoked a gigantic counterattack from the world working class: the strike by 9 million workers during May 1968 in France, the "hot May" of 1969 in Italy, the rising by Argentine workers in Cordoba during the some year, the massive strikes in Poland's Baltic region during the some year, the British miners' strike during 1972 and 1974, and many other important struggles in other countries. This was the proof that the working class had overcome the counter-revolution, that it was capable, by its struggle and its refusal to accept the privations demanded by the bourgeoisie, of blocking the road to a new World War: workers who refuse to sacrifice their livelihood to the national economy are still less ready to sacrifices their lives to the nation state. But although the proletariat was able to prevent the outbreak of a new imperialist slaughter, it was still unable to put forward its own perspective: the overthrow of capitalism, and the construction of communist society. Consequently, it could not help feeling more and more the effects of capitalist decadence. But history has not stopped during this temporary blockage of the world situation. For 20 years, society has continued to suffer the accumulation of all the characteristics of decadence, mode still worse by the deepening economic crisis which the ruling class has proved utterly incapable of overcoming. All that the latter can offer is a day-by-day resistance, with no hope of success, to the irrevocable collapse of the capitalist mode of production. Incapable of offering the slightest way forward (even a way into suicide, such as a World War), capitalism has plunged deeper into a state of advanced social decomposition and generalised despair.
And this despair can only grow as today's world shows more and more that it has no way out to offer the whole of humanity. For let there be no illusions! If we do not destroy capitalism, then capitalism, even without a new world war, will destroy humanity, through an accumulation of local wars, epidemics, destruction of the environment, famines, and other supposedly "natural" disasters.
THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION IS HUMANITY'S ONLY HOPE
Workers! Never have the predictions of the last century's revolutionaries been so up-to-date. "Socialism, or barbarism" was what they said. In the absence of the proletariat's world revolution, barbarism has now become general and threatens the survival of humanity itself. More than ever, the only hope for the future lies in the overthrow of the capitalist system, and the creation of new social relationships freed from the contradictions which are strangling society.
If capitalism is plunging into an insoluble economic crisis which is the basis for its convulsions today, if it condemns masses of human beings to misery and starvation while at the same time it cannot find outlets for its production and is closing factories, leaving fields fallow, and laying off workers, this is because capitalism produces, not to satisfy need, but to sell at a profit. The markets are saturated today, not because society's needs are saturated but because it does not have the wherewithal to buy the goods that have been produced, and capitalism cannot provide this wherewithal without ceasing to exist: a capitalism that gave consumers the money to buy what it produced, in other words gave away its produce, would no longer be capitalism. And the credit which has been so much abused for years will not change anything: by generalising debt, it has only made the contradictions more explosive. The bourgeoisie's ideological campaigns are today singing the praises of the market, which is supposed to solve all the problems of the world economy. What a sinister swindle! It is precisely because capitalism is based on the production of commodities, of value for exchange arid not for use, that its economy is plunging irredeemably into the abyss. The failure of the Stalinist economies lay not in abolishing capitalism and the market, but in trying to cheat its laws on a grand scale, without ever abolishing it. The only way for society to overcome the crisis of capitalism is not to have "more capitalism" or "less capitalism", nor to reform the system. It is to overthrow the laws that govern it, and to abolish capitalism itself.
ONLY THE PROLETARIAT CAN PUT AN END TO CAPITALISM
Only the working class can carry out such an overthrow. It is the only class in society which has a real interest in attacking capitalism at its roots, in attacking the commodity production which lies at the heart of the system's crisis. For it is precisely the market, the domination of the commodity in capitalist production, which lies at the heart of the proletariat's own exploitation. What distinguishes the working class from other categories of producers such as farmers or artisans, is that it is deprived of the means of production. To live, it is forced to sell its labour power to the owners of the means of production: the capitalists, whether private or state. The workers are exploited under capitalism because labour power has itself become a commodity, indeed the most important of all commodities. This is why the proletariat's struggle against capitalist exploitation bears with it the abolition of wage labour, and so the abolition of all forms of commodity. Moreover, this class already produces the vast majority of social wealth. It does so collectively, in the framework of associated labour developed by capitalism itself. But capitalism has not taken the development of socialised production, which it developed at the expense of small-scale individual production, to its logical conclusion. This indeed is one of capitalism's essential contradictions: under its reign, production has become worldwide, and yet the means of production remain dispersed in the hands of a multitude of owners, whether private bosses or the state, who sell and buy the commodities produced. The abolition of the market therefore means the expropriation of all the capitalists, the collective taking in charge by society of all the means of production. And this task can only be carried out by the class which collectively sets in motion the means of production, but is deprived of any ownership over them.
This idea is not new: for more than 150 years, it has been the banner of the workers' struggle against exploitation "The emancipation of the working class will be the task of the workers themselves": this was the central slogan of the programme of the International Workingmen's Association, the First International, founded in 1864. Since then, it has been repeated by the other Internationals: the Socialist International founded in 1889, and the Communist International born in 1919 in the midst of the revolutionary wove, and killed by Stalinism in 1924. Today, the bourgeoisie's campaigns try to make us believe that this is a mere Utopia, and a dangerous one at that since it is supposedly responsible for the horrors of Stalinism. But we can expect nothing but lies from the bourgeoisie and its servile media. In reality, what the workers' movement has proclaimed since its birth remains valid to this day. As it has transformed itself, capitalism has not done away with the working class, as some hired sociologists would have it. This system continues to live on the exploitation of wage labour - indeed, this is its very soul. And the class of wage workers, whether they work in factories or in offices, in schools or in hospitals, continues to be the sole bearer of humanity's future.
Indeed, the immediacy of the proletariat's communist revolution is demonstrated by the extent of the bourgeoisie's campaigns about the "end of communism" or the "death of marxism", in other words the proletariat's revolutionary theory. If the ruling class really had no more fear of the exploited, if it really believed that the working class would never again have a port to play on the historical scene, then it would not devote so much effort to convincing the workers that they can expect nothing from a revolution, or to infecting them with a feeling of impotence.
TODAY'S DIFFICULTIES HAVE NOT DEFEATED THE PROLETARIAT: THE WORKERS STILL HAVE THE STRENGTH TO OVERTHROW CAPITALISM
It is true that the working class has been weakened by the huge campaign orchestrated around the events of the last two years: the explosion of the "socialist" bloc, the collapse of the Stalinist regime in the USSR, the break-up of the country which witnessed the proletarian revolution 75 years ago. Stalinism has been the spearhead of the bourgeois counter-revolution; its death has rendered one last service to the ruling class by enveloping the working class in the stink of its corpse, at a time when it was already confronted with all the other difficulties of decomposing capitalism. Today, many workers have fallen victim to the bourgeoisie's campaigns, and have abandoned any hope of one day transforming the world and abolishing capitalist exploitation. In the countries of the ex-Eastern bloc, where the workers suffered the most extreme form of counter-revolution, they do not have the strength to oppose even the most archaic of the bourgeoisie's illusions: against Stalinism's "proletarian internationalism", which it used as a cover for its own imperialism, they have been submerged in nationalist hysteria; in reaction to the atheism preached by the Stalinists they have leapt into the arms of the church. But these ore not the world proletariat's most decisive sectors. It is in the advanced Western countries that the most advanced battalions of the world proletariat live, work, and struggle. And this fraction of the proletariat remains undefeated. Although it has been disoriented by today's propaganda campaigns, it has not been enrolled under the bourgeois flag, whether nationalist or democratic. During the Gulf War, the bourgeoisie only used professional troops: this is a proof that conscripts (where they exist), or in other words workers in uniform, are not ready to give their lives far the defence of "international law" or "democracy". And for the working class, this war has revealed more clearly what is the meaning of democracy and its lies about the "new world order". Increasingly, the workers are deserting the great democratic electoral ceremonies. The same goes for the trade unions, the bourgeois state's instrument for controlling the exploited and sabotaging their struggles. The continued aggravation of the economic crisis will sweep away the illusions in the capitalist economy's "superiority", and at the same time will force the proletariat down the road of ever greater and more united struggles. This is the road that the class has followed since the end of the 6Os, and especially during the mid-80s, even though the events of the last two years have temporarily pushed it off course. The ruling class, with a sigh of relief, has hurried to the deathbed of marxist theory. But marxism is not dead: quite the contrary. The present aggravation of the crisis, which it alone foresaw and can explain, shows that it is alive and kicking. Its vitality can only grow with the resurgence of the workers' movement.
In the working class's effort to develop ifs struggles and its consciousness, the class's most advanced elements, the real communists, will play a vitally important part. In the present, as in the past, "in the different phases of the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie" the task of the communists is "to put forward and to defend the common interests of the entire proletariat, without any consideration of nationality", and always to represent "the interests of the movement as a whole" (Communist Manifesto).
This is why, given the high stakes and the gravity of the present situation, in the face of a storm of bourgeois lies, and to contribute effectively both to the maturation of proletarian consciousness and the development of its struggle, it is up to today's weak revolutionary forces to overcome their old divisions and all sectarianism, and to open amongst themselves a fraternal debate which will allow them to clarify their analyses, and to play a greater, and more united port in the defence of communist positions within the proletariat.
If the proletariat needs unity to conduct its struggle, the same spirit of unity, which can only be achieved in clarity, must prevail among its front-line forces: the communists.
Never in history has so much been at stake. Never has a social class had to face such a responsibility as the proletariat today. If the class proves unable to take on this responsibility, then it will be the end of civilisation, and even of humanity itself. Millennia of progress, labour, and thought, will be wiped out for ever. Two hundred years of proletarian struggles, millions of working class martyrs, all will have been in vain. To stop the bourgeoisie's criminal manoeuvres, to unmask its vile lies, and to develop your struggles on the path towards the worldwide communist revolution, to abolish the reign of want, and to achieve, at last, the realm of liberty,
WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!
1. It is important not to confuse Trotsky with the various political organisations which today claim to be "Trotskyist'. Trotsky was a great revolutionary, even if his opposition to Stalinism was marred by his political mistakes, and concessions to Stalinism such as the idea that there remained "gains" in the USSR that workers should "defend". By contrast, those currents which have continued, since Trotsky's assassination by a Stalinist agent in 1940, and World War II, to call themselves "Trotskyist" have definitively left the working class: by calling the workers to massacre each other during the imperialist war, they have lamed Stalin and the rest of the bourgeoisie in the enemy camp. See the article '1940: Trotsky, assassinated as a symbol of the working class' in International Review 103, 4th Quarter 2000.