Statement of the Internationalist Communist Tendency
No War But the Class War?
There can be little doubt that capitalism has entered an agonising historical phase. This is confirmed both by increasingly intense imperialist competition, and the rise of popular movements against the failures of the system. The long shadow of the 2008 crash continues to extend its effects across the global capitalist system. After more than ten years, the supposed “recovery” has become, in the words of some capitalist economists, a managed “synchronised stagnation”. Profit and growth rates, the Moses and the Prophets of capitalist existence, remain low across the planet and are repeatedly revised downwards by the guardians of the international economy, like the IMF and OECD. So desperate is the situation that trillions are being poured into bonds that carry negative interest rates (in other words so fearful are investors of the future that they are paying the bond issuer to “look after” their money!).
Decades of quantitative easing may have bailed out a financial system “too big to fail” but at what cost? Global indebtedness is growing so fast that any figure we might give here would be out of date before it is printed, but safe to say that global indebtedness of all kinds is marching relentlessly on towards $300 trillion. “Debt” is not the same for everyone. For the few at the pinnacle of the financial system, debt is an “asset” since they control the flow of revenue that stems from it. For the millions living on declining real incomes who are forced to juggle between the loan shark, the pay day lender and the credit card payment, it is a constant reminder of the growing inequality of a system that is stacked against them.
Thus the initial spark for many of the popular movements we have seen on the streets around the world sounds, at a superficial glance, relatively trivial. A tax on WhatsApp calls in Lebanon, a price hike on the Santiago metro in Chile, or the ending of fuel subsidies in Ecuador were all “the last straw” for people who had suffered declining living standards for decades rather than years. Behind all the movements that stretch from Latin America (Chile, Ecuador, Honduras) to the Arab world (Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq) lies the same combination of economic distress, declining opportunities for the young generation (who make up over 40% of the world’s population) and a sense of the “unfairness” of a system run by corrupt kleptocratic cliques benefiting from the latest burst of speculation.
This speculation is the result of the crisis of profitability which brings lower returns on manufacturing investment. For each state the main game in town is thus to divert revenue, from whatever source, and by whatever means, towards their own jurisdiction. As a result, competition is increasing on all fronts – manufacturing and industrial, commercial, monetary, and strategic. In this context the tendency to war is not a warning, but the concrete reality of all international relations and a state of affairs which involves all the main imperialist powers of the planet in various places in the world like Libya, Yemen or Ukraine, bringing thousands upon thousands of deaths.
In Syria the massive presence of all the major culprits in this carnage continually shifts like a kaleidoscope. With their diverse, often conflicting interests, new alliances have been formed and old ones dissolved, in a series of episodes that have brought the ruin of an entire country with two million dead and 12 million displaced, with over four million of them refugees. Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Shiite axis line up on one side. The US, Israel and the Sunni axis on the other. Each has its own interests to defend, whilst in the middle the various nationalisms have become the tools of one imperialism and thus the target of attack for others, even though they are part of the same coalition. It does not matter whether the proletarians are Kurds or Arabs, Shiites or Sunnis. The important thing is that they are being dragged into the ideological mechanisms of this or that imperialism and that they act as cannon fodder for the sole benefit of the interests of the imperialism that has ideologically subjugated them. And, as the US has just demonstrated with the YPG in Northern Syria, they can be cast aside as soon as their purpose has been served.
We have now had over a century of capitalist imperialism. This has led to wars so destructive that they can allow a new cycle of accumulation to be built on the ruin they create. We have now had almost fifty years since the last cycle of accumulation entered its final stages. Thanks to globalisation, state management of the financial sector and speculation, the system limped on until the crash of 2008. But the failure to invest, because profit rates are not sufficient to encourage such outlays, explains not only why they cannot meet the challenge of climate change, but also why we have reached the impasse of today.
The failure of the capitalist class to find an economic solution has in turn heightened their political crisis. Whilst one faction tries to return to old worn out Keynesian formulas, another is increasingly turning to nationalism, trade wars, sanctions against each other. Such policies increase chaos in the economy (world trade is falling). It is no figment of the imagination to think that the next financial crash, expected by many capitalists pundits across the globe, will lead to an even worse economic situation worldwide and bring with it the danger of even more generalised war through an intensification of current wars or the outbreak of new ones.
So what is the solution to the impending barbarism? Unfortunately, it does not lie in the current protests. They are but a symptom of the malaise of the system. In, and of, themselves they cannot come up with a solution. Their diverse social and class interests ensure that eventually the movement will crack, leaving the working class and the dispossessed feeling betrayed, whilst the downwardly mobile professional classes and petty bourgeois end up as supporters of the new ruling elite or a new constitution.
But if a new world cannot come about simply through demonstrations, civil disobedience or other actions to pressurise the representatives of the capitalist class to act against their own interests, it is our task — i.e. those of us who are already politically organised internationally — to find a means of intervening in the social ferment to put forward an internationalist class perspective. This, without any illusions about being able to change the direction of current protests, but with the perspective of having an organised presence in the wider struggles yet to come.
This is not a pious hope. In Chile there have been some attempts to set up local committees to coordinate the struggle in working class districts, whilst in Iran last year Haft Tapeh workers were calling for the re-establishment of workers’ councils. These are “straws in the wind” as to what a real self-organised class movement capable of overthrowing capitalism could look like. Once such movements organise via mass assemblies, and elect their own bodies to run the struggle, they are on the first rung of the ladder towards the kind of class movement capable of overthrowing the current system of misery and hopelessness. It is only by acting within this kind of revolt that the international revolutionary party of the future, the new International, will be formed on the basis of the only viable anti-capitalist programme: the programme of international communism, which is itself distilled from the lessons of workers' struggle everywhere, and throughout history.
Internationalist Communist Tendency