The sole historical Perspective: World War or Communist Revolution !
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 4; November 2008)
The depth of the counter-revolution which ensured world capitalism a long period of the absence of the proletariat from the historical scene, is not in a position however to be able to avoid the increasing maturation of its internal contradictions which sooner or later will bring the crucial alternative to the forefront: general war between capitalist States or international communist revolution.
Why should we speak about counter-revolution, when for decades the dominant bourgeois classes have not been threatened by proletarian revolution in any country?
Because to maintain itself as dominant class and to preserve the political power which enables it to appropriate social wealth, the bourgeoisie is unceasingly forced to increase its economic exploitation and its political and social oppression over the proletariat of all countries, ultra- or underdeveloped and the majority of the population of the world. Throughout its history, the bourgeoisie has experienced the power of the proletariat, undoubtedly in rare moments, but Oh how significant, being able to drive it out of power: look at the revolutionary wave born of October 1917, without even going back to the Commune of 1871. That led it to act, with a kind of spontaneousness, on the line of counter-revolutionary invariance. Its class consciousness tells it that there is or that there will be a threat towards its power, a threat represented not by the petit bourgeoisie or the peasants, but by the proletarian class.
But, does the proletariat really represent a threat for the bourgeoisie today? In which country?
Unfortunately, today the proletariat does not represent a threat to the power of the bourgeoisie in any country. But it is not as if the bourgeoisie can sleep in tranquility: it fears what can happen to it tomorrow. This is why, in accordance with the old adage according to which it is to better prevent that to cure, and on the basis of its experience of more than a century of social and political domination, the ruling class implements a strategy that we could call preventive counter-revolution.
More than sixty years have elapsed since the end of the last world war; and during these sixty years, on a worldwide scale there has not been an episode of proletarian struggle which seriously worried the international bourgeoisie.
The proletariat of the developed capitalist countries; after having been relegated to the defense of the national interests, in the fascistic countries as well as in the democratic ones, by means of Stalinist or other opportunist forces, was consequently practically eliminated from the political scene. The proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie was cut down to the level of daily survival, a level which always favors the forces of interclassism, opportunism, collaboration between classes. In these countries bourgeois corruption no longer touched just a thin layer of the labor aristocracy, as at the time of Marx and Engels, but much broader sectors of the proletariat.
This corruption, the vital lymph of all the forces of opportunism, consisted in the distribution of some “guarantees” of terms of employment, wages, “social security”, retirement income, and various allowances to wage-workers; this innovation, first made by the fascistic regimes, was taken up and generalized by the democratic regimes.
But as Marxism indicates, the concessions granted by the bourgeoisie are not only the result of the economic struggles carried out by proletarians grouped into trade-union organizations; they are also the fruit of the bestial exploitation of the colonial populations, of the domination of monopolies in the developed economies, of the vertiginous increase in militarism which makes it possible for the strongest countries to despoil the weaker countries; in a word - of the increasing imperialism of the capitalist countries.
During the beginning of the 20th century, the development of the economic, social and political conditions of capitalism produced a process of maturation of contradictions which coincided with the development of the proletarian forces on the level of immediate defensive struggles as well as on the level of the revolutionary political struggle for the conquest of power. The apogee was the Bolshevik triumph of October 1917, the foundation of the Communist International, authentic World Communist Party, the victory in the terrible civil war during which all the imperialist powers, allied in vain with tsarist reaction, tried to restore the power of the Russian bourgeoisie. The establishment of proletarian power in Russia constituted the first step of the European and world revolution.
But the revolution did not succeed in extending itself beyond its Russian bastion. The newborn Communist parties suffered from serious reformist and democratic defects inherited from the social-democratic parties from which they had separated; consequently, in spite of the proletarian revolutionary wave–of which the German working class gave the most magnificent example–the labor movement in the Occident did not succeed in linking its forces with those of the Russian proletariat to constitute a gigantic revolutionary army able to smash the obstinate resistance of bourgeois domination.
The reaffirmation of the proletariat into the revolutionary class, synthesized in the Communist International, lasted only a few years, but that was sufficient to terrorize the bourgeoisies of the entire world, and for generations. The alternative, extremely clear for the Communist party, but quite as clear for the bourgeoisie was the dictatorship of capitalist imperialism or dictatorship of the proletariat. There was no third way.
In the course of the openly revolutionary period with the world war and the revolution of 1917, there were revolutionary attempts in Germany, in Hungary, in Poland, but in the final analysis it is the bourgeois class which was victorious.
The response of the ruling class was not only democratic-reactionary as at the time of the Paris Commune. The bourgeoisie found an even more incisive response to destroy a proletariat disorientated and weakened for years by opportunism: Fascism–i.e. a centralist method par excellence, openly dictatorial and anti-proletarian, and at the same time the prototype of a new method of government adapted to the imperialist phase, to replace the old democratic liberalism. The danger was so great for the bourgeoisie that the proletariat was to be eliminated as a class, decapitated of its party and its organizations. And this was carried out as much in the fascistic countries as in the democratic countries, and in Russia itself where the proletarian power was strangled by the forces born from the development of national capitalism.
At its imperialist stage, capitalism not only tends to concentrate and centralize the economy, giving birth to gigantic trusts–the multinationals as they are called today–which exceed the borders of their countries of origin to become powerful forces in the countries where they are present, with their political, cultural, religious, and military ramifications; it also tends to adapt its official superstructures to the defense of interests which increasingly extend to the whole world.
In this fashion alliances or confrontations between trusts, thus increasingly correspond to alliances or clashes between States in the service of these gigantic centers of capitalist interests.
The attacks of September 11 in the United States provided the pretext to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq whose real cause is in the increasing antagonisms between American capitalist interests and those of its European and Asian competitors; in fact the American trusts grabbed the gigantic Iraqi oil reserves, while their more or less voluntary “allies” hoped for their share of the spoils. This war of plunder and occupation which was supposed to conclude in the space of a few months, has lasted for more than four years; the show of force by the United States led to a setback from which it will not be easy for them to leave unscathed.
If it is true, as history has demonstrated, that inter-imperialist or “ultra-imperialist” alliances, take the form of an imperialist coalition against another imperialism or a general union of all imperialisms, they are only a truce between two wars, it is also true that these alliances arise from the power struggles between the various capitalist powers.
And these power struggles inevitably change during the decades, as Lenin explained in opposition to Kautsky who theorized the possibility of a peaceful union between imperialists: “Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics” (1).
This same basis is world competition between capitalist centers of interests, between States, which leads to the formation of alliances and their rupture following the lines of the unequal development of capitalism. The instability of the power struggles between the capitalist powers finds its counterpart in the continual oscillations of the market, not only of commodities, but more especially the financial market where masses of capital can evaporate or increase with extreme facility according to the vicissitudes of competition between companies, trusts, States. As the internal contradictions of capitalism are sharpened this increasingly keen competition leads to a veritable economic war on a worldwide market engorged with goods and capital, paralleled by a social war of each bourgeois power against its proletarians to safeguard the rates of profit essential to the smooth functioning of the economy.
The increasingly ruthless economic war inevitably tends to be transformed into war tout court: a third world war is the inexorable result of the decades of capitalist expansion–expansion which, in addition, was peaceful only in the dominant imperialist countries, since it was accompanied by quasi- permanent “local wars”.
As Lenin pointed out it, the war is not the “choice” of this or that bad government, of this or that “warmonger”, but it is the inevitable consequence of the operation of the capitalist mode of production.
What will the proletariat do when the rumblings of war become louder and stronger?
It is the question to which the bourgeoisie cannot avoid responding; they answer it in advance because they know perfectly that the union sacrée necessary for the control of wars must be prepared a long time before by class collaboration; the spectacle of the reportage by the media of the massacres and miseries reported in remote countries functions to induce the adhesion of the proletarians to “their” country where things do not go so badly in the final analysis, and in “their” State which claims to protect them from these disorders and these “cruel horrors”; but it also functions to cause a feeling of human solidarity directed and organized in an interclassist manner through a whole series of ad hoc organizations, which tomorrow will be used to the profit of the defense of national capitalism.
But above all, after the failure of the revolutionary offensive of the first post-war period, the Western proletariat deprived of its class organizations, after having been used as obedient cannon fodder in the Second World War, marshaled by the reformist apparatuses, has experienced more than one half-century of daily class collaboration.
It will not be able to lift itself from this abyss into which the counterrevolution had (caused it to tumble) made it collapse by a simple “call to weapons” by some guerillist group or a sudden “mass awakening” to the impossibility of the current society ensuring it a future of peace and social harmony; nor by an activity of illumination of consciousnesses nor by spontaneous germination of leadership organs of the revolution in its immediate struggles.
This doesn’t mean that the proletariat doesn’t always possess the potentiality for the resumption of the revolutionary class struggle.
Indeed the same economic and social contradictions which push capitalism towards war also push the proletariat to revolt against the always increasing deterioration of its living and working conditions. To oppose the increasingly bestial exploitation that the capitalists are constrained to exert on the proletarians, the only way out is revolt, the struggle.
In the only way in which the working class has historically experienced of its effectiveness: while breaking with interclassist practices and orientations, by once again taking the struggles against the capitalists directly into its own hands; by becoming aware through these fights of its class identity and its adamant antagonism towards the enemy class, by thus developing class solidarity with the proletarians of other factories, other categories, other races and other nations.
The material forces which collide in the economic substratum of capitalist society are themselves much more powerful than the attempts of the bourgeoisie to extricate itself from its historical rendezvous with the explosion of all the contradictions of its society which have been accumulating and becoming more exacerbated for decades. And they are much more powerful than the apparent paralysis of the existing proletarian class. The conscience of all these processes at work is possessed not by individual proletarians, but by the proletarian class party, by the Marxist party.
The historical prospect defined by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto in 1848 and subsequently defended by communist revolutionaries is not based on utopian plans for a new society, on a theory worked out by a great thinker; it is based on the material evolution of society, on the development of its productive relations: Communism is the consequence of these historical processes and not the realization of an idea.
The classes into which society is divided are not theoretical categories, but material forces. The revolution, the violent passage of one social form into a new one, is the result of the confrontation between these social classes, directed by specific political organizations which are called parties. The words of the Manifesto (2) always retain a searing actuality/reality:
The essential conditions for the existence and for the domination of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable!
(1) cf Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism“, Chap. IX “Critique of Imperialism”.
(2) cf “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, Chap.“Bourgeois and Proletarians”.
International Communist Party