WR 18th Congress: Opening up discussion to understand a new period

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The ICC's section in Britain held its 18th Congress in November 2008.  Coincidentally the Congress was held on the same weekend as the G20 meeting in Washington, where the number one item on the agenda was also the world economic crisis: the credit crunch of 2007 was accelerating into the worst recession in decades, Iceland's banks had just collapsed and the governments of the most powerful countries, especially Britain and the USA, were organising huge rescue packages for theirs.

This open and profound crisis, unlike the Depression in the 1930s, is being experienced by an undefeated generation of proletarians, and in the last few years there have been clear signs of a working class response in the shape of strikes and demonstrations all over the world, while a tiny but growing politicised minority is advancing towards a communist understanding of the bleak perspective capitalism has to offer us today. Like the small furry animals scurrying about for food during the last days of the dinosaurs, these seemingly insignificant efforts have the potential for momentous developments in the future, in particular the development of class consciousness and its spread within the working class which is so vital for future revolutionary struggles. Today we can see a growth of discussion circles and small internationalist groups around the world from the Americas to the Philippines, as well as in countries where the ICC already has a presence. The ICC has responded to this new situation by taking up an old tradition of the workers' movement and inviting new internationalist groups to its last international congress and the congresses of our French section (see IR 130 and WR 318), and sympathisers to the congresses and national meetings of our other territorial sections. WR is no exception and our Congress last November benefited from the presence of 5 close sympathisers invited to the first day when we discussed general political questions, in addition to the delegations from other sections of the organisation, making it a real international meeting.

Our first discussion took up the activities of the organisation at an international level, in particular the discussions with internationalist groups emerging all over the world and the prospects for the expansion of the ICC into new regions. This discussion also covered the main discussions going on inside the ICC and the way we are approaching them. Readers can see expressions of the debate on the post war boom in IR 133 and 135, and our orientation texts on ethics and marxism in IR 127 and 128 and on the culture of debate in IR 131. There was agreement that more of these discussions need to be opened up outside the organisation.

In the discussion of the international situation we looked closely at the economic crisis, which has caused such panic in the bourgeoisie. Does the situation of Iceland mean there is a potential for the collapse of secondary countries? What is meant by the idea of the ‘collapse of capitalism' in general? The discussion affirmed that open crisis today cannot be seen in itself but has to be understood as the latest stage in a long dawn-out, historic crisis of capitalism. When we came to discuss the national situation, comrades drew on the contribution from Bilan in the 1930s (reprinted in WR 312 and 313) to show how British capitalism's reliance on finance capital increases its vulnerability to the crisis (this was at a time when the bourgeois media was still claiming that the country was in a relatively good position to face the recession).

 Obama's election, only a couple of weeks before the Congress, was recognised as a short-term victory for the ruling class, strengthening illusions in ‘change' and mobilising previously disaffected layers of the working class into the democratic circus. The new face that Obama gives to US imperialism is also an advantage at a time when the crisis is set to further intensify imperialist tensions.

Sympathisers' contributions were a real enrichment of all these discussions. Eddie's letter (see below), giving his comments on the Congress, show that it has also stimulated a lot of reflection in all the participants, both inside and outside the organisation.

 On the second day, the Congress looked at how to strengthen the organisation so that it can be up to the demands of the situation. In order to respond to the developments in the class struggle and the new groups and individuals wanting to find out about left communist positions, we have to deepen our own discussions and improve the centralisation both of our internal life and our external activities. Since centralisation is, as Bordiga says, a principle for the workers' movement it can only be strengthened in practise through a better understanding of its theoretical foundations.

WR 6/2/9

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