Against Exploitation, Crisis and War - No War But the Class War!

Against Exploitation, Crisis and War - No War But the Class War!

May Day Statement of the Internationalist Communist Tendency on the current international situation and the challenges facing the working class a century after the Russian Revolution offered so much hope and brought so much despair.

Another May Day where imperialist tensions threaten to spread existing wars or stir up new ones. We are faced with the spectre of much wider and more destructive conflicts than in recent decades. The collapse of the USSR was presented by capitalist ideologists of all persuasions as the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity. The reality, now obvious to everyone, is just the opposite. It could not be otherwise. The causes that led to the implosion of the “Eastern Bloc” have certainly not spared "the West" nor have they gone away. In fact, despite the "emergence" of new players on the world economic stage, the foundations of the world capitalist system continue to crumble.


The key to this scenario is the structural crisis of the capital accumulation process, which has plagued the system for over forty years. For decades, capital has relied on compensating for its falling profit rate through comprehensive restructuring of the production process and a massive increase in the rate of exploitation. Alongside the de-industrialisation and downsizing in many areas at the centre of capitalism there was a corresponding capital exodus to territories around the world where the workforce is paid very little and where the bosses' dictatorship, and therefore exploitation, is unlimited. The so-called opening of markets has placed the various segments of the global workforce in direct competition with each other, leading to a race to the bottom in terms of general working and living conditions. So far, this decline in living standards has been unstoppable. The working class has lost some degree of organisation and unity. This fragmentation and the spread of precarious working conditions pose great challenges to the development of a collective defence. Meanwhile financial speculation continues apace which only adds to growing instability and an unsustainable growth of the debt mountain. It is only a matter of time before the next financial bubble bursts.

… and War

Wherever we look this crisis is intensifying the conflict between opposing imperialist interests and pushing them towards open warfare. At the centre of these intensified conflicts for power and spheres of influence are the efforts of the USA to defend its hegemony against a growing number of challengers.

Contrary to his election promises, the rise of Trump has revived US imperialist activity, both against its traditional opponents and its "friends". Beyond the "bullying" character of the American President, this shows that, in an imperialist world, there are only conflicting interests which impose their will by force if necessary.

It is civilians, workers, the dispossessed, who pay the price for all this: massacred, impoverished, forced to abandon their homes to seek a precarious refuge in countries where they are not welcome, where they become the target of racist campaigns and are exploited as an convenient supply of cheap labour.

Not surprisingly, the Middle East has been for decades the area where imperialist powers have clashed the most. The game for control of a large portion of the world's energy flows and through that, the maintenance of the dollar‘s dominance, is played out there. Although no longer the "leading industrial power" as in the Second World War, it is thanks, in large part to this supremacy, coupled with its military might, that the US can continue to play the role of global superpower. On the other side the euro was another significant moment in the bumpy ride to establish a European imperialist pole. It was one of the key instruments for countering US imperial hegemony, based on the primacy of the dollar in trade and global financial movements. It is also a tool to best manage – or so parts of the European bourgeoisie think – a crisis that never goes away. And it is this crisis, not the actual currency, which is forcing governments to impose economic and social policies – including the notorious “structural adjustments” to state budgets – which lower wages, cut the "welfare state", and have deadly effects on jobs (insecurity, unemployment).

The poverty of reformism….

Under present conditions there is no organisation which the working class can recognise as their own. Instead the mishmash of various left reformists, often heirs of Stalinism, confront imperialism with blunt weapons like pathetic appeals to democracy, or to those institutions, like the UN, which, at best, are powerless to stop conflicts, when they do not give them a legal and even "humanitarian" cover. It’s a Left which deludes its "natural supporters" (and themselves) with economic and social solutions which might have had some point – in bourgeois terms – in the post-war boom, but which have little credibility today. It’s not just the "banks" or "neo-liberalism" that are the problem, but capitalism as a whole: we have to break with the whole system. But this means going down a road that the Left, by its very nature, can’t even dream of taking. Instead they continue to point to the shameful, if unsurprising, story of SYRIZA in Greece –which should have been the tombstone of all reformist illusions – as if it had been a success.

… and the rise of the authoritarian Right

On the other hand, the so-called populism of the extreme Right is growing. Reactionary ideologies always feed on social decomposition, atomisation and growing insecurity. The dangerous propaganda mix of racism and social demagogy is winning over substantial layers of the de-classed petty bourgeoisie and even confused workers who are disillusioned by a self-styled Left which is always ready to go along with the dictates of capital. The "Left" in government have systematically betrayed the campaign promises they made and do the traditional work of the Right, allowing it to demagogically say things that sound "left". However, the parties of the authoritarian Right offer neither protest nor opposition to either the dominant conditions or the Establishment but, on the contrary, their business is to sharpen those divisions amongst workers which the ruling class plays upon daily. By doing this it attracts all those authoritarian characters, who seek to compensate for their own weakness with aggression against those who are weaker. The authoritarian Right might differ from the reformist Left in the extent of its nationalist and racist ideology but their populist recipes to "get out" of the crisis are not, in the end, very different. Both are firmly based on capitalist premises: exit from the euro (or EU), protectionism, state intervention and the defence of the highly praised “national sovereignty”

A Real Response: Class Struggle and Organisation

After decades of attacks the challenge for the international working class is how to give a response that is equal to the attacks of its class enemy. A minority of workers – often belonging to the most oppressed sectors of our class – have started to conduct determined and courageous battles (for example the strikes in the Italian logistics sector). Many of those struggles have flowed outside of and against the control of the traditional trades unions, organisations that are more and more obviously integrated into the mechanism of management and control of the working class on behalf of capitalism. Those struggles often alleviate the most brutal methods of exploitation and oppression, but the political groups leading them remain locked inside a union perspective, albeit a radical unionism, which, never goes beyond the (partial) successes of the first phase of the struggle. Their framework is necessarily limited and holds back that leap to the political level which is needed to confront capital. Meanwhile the crisis only highlights the incompatibility of interests between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. It underlines the need to give the class struggle not a union perspective, which accepts the overall framework of capitalism, but a communist one that is radically antagonistic to bourgeois society. Thus it is important and necessary to understand capitalist mechanisms, the logic of bourgeois rule, its criminal imperialist power games and give a clear rebuff to the fraudulent nature of the programmes of both reformist left and “populist” right.

There is an alternative to capitalist misery! It starts by recognising that the ruthless demands of capital are incompatible with our wage-dependent world of work (or lack of it). It moves on to taking up the struggle against capitalism in all its economic and political guises, something that is more difficult than ever today. Finally, an international revolutionary organisation has to be formed which can draw together the anger against an inhuman system which has outlived its usefulness, and which can consistently channel that anger into overthrowing it.

1917: An Inspiration and a Lesson

Exactly a hundred years ago, in the middle of a world war, the revolutionary proletariat of Russia broke part of the chain with which the capitalists oppressed the world’s proletariat and dispossessed. Organised politically in the Bolshevik Party, its organs of power were based on the direct democracy of the soviets. The Russian revolutionaries knew that if "their" revolution remained isolated, if the working class of other countries, especially the more advanced, did not break with their own bourgeoisie, their revolution would be defeated. And so, unfortunately, it was. Of course, there was no shortage of serious political mistakes, and of a tragic misunderstanding of the meaning of the word "socialism". There was also, at times, a lack of clarity in dealing with a situation which had never appeared before in history, except for the all too brief, but brilliant, experience of the Paris Commune of 1871.

The Russian revolutionary experience degenerated until it was transformed into an open counter-revolution in the form of state capitalism disguised, to the joy of all reactionaries, as “socialism”. This was due to the enormous, even superhuman difficulties, which the Russian proletariat had to face alone. If we remember October 1917 it is not with a kind of pathetic sentimentality, but to point out how that experience has shown that a radical transformation of the society is indeed possible.

The experiences of the Russian revolution show that a proletarian uprising cannot continue to survive isolated in a single country and that we can only fight and overcome capitalism (as a global system) on an international scale. The first attempt to enter a new world was defeated, but no one can say that it will be like this forever. It is an elementary task of a communist organisation to save the experience of proletarian self-emancipation from oblivion whilst at the same time pointing out its limitations. Only by critically reflecting on and developing the revolutionary perspective which a hundred years ago enthused and propelled the class-conscious proletariat of all countries can we put a stop to the lowering of our living standards, the irreversible destruction of the environment, and imperialist wars with their tragic toll of death and suffering.

Communism or barbarism! There is no other choice.


May 4 2017 14:36

....And even more so the experience of the 'Spanish anarchist inspired revolution' in very different and even less favourable international circumstances. An excellent contribution to some otherwise mundane May Day declarations - probably won't ever get a single international revolutionary organisation but we can start by encouraging some honest critical co-operation amongst the tiny groups of genuine revolutionary communists from both the anarchist and Marxist tendencies.