1. Toward a discussion of classes under capitalism in its eastern zone of domination

This work attempts to analyze the struggles of Polish workers from the summer of 1980 until today. It is a collective effort of several comrades from Echanges. It is the third in a series of texts. The first two were; Capitalisme et lutte de classe en Pologne 1970-71 (by ICO, a collective, 1975)* and Le 25 juin 1976 en Pologne (by Henri Simon, 1977). The development of capital in Poland and the class struggles which accompanied it may seem to be unique to Poland. In fact, the Poland of 1980 had very specific characteristics: a large class of peasants who owned their land; an equal balance between Western capital and Eastern capital in a rapidly industrializing economy; a balance of forces which favored the workers, who could not be restrained within the current economic and political structures; and an independent mass organization, the Catholic Church, which was a counterpoise to the only legal mass organization, the Communist Party. *Poland: 1970-71, Capitalism and Class Struggle, published by Black and Red, 1977.

These specific characteristics were not found in any other country in the Russian imperialist bloc nor in Russia itself. Like the movements of 1970-71 and 1978, the 1980 movement has apparently met with no direct response from the working class in these countries, even though they are linked under the same form of domination of capital. But this is in appearance only. It is certain that in the Russian bloc there has been a resounding echo and that workers there are very much aware of what the Polish workers have achieved. In January 1981, a miner from the Donets basin said: "We know everything about Poland, but what can we do? We are for the Polish workers; but if Poland is attacked today, it will be our turn tomorrow." (This was part of an interview published in the Financial Times (London) on January 9, 1981 and conducted by Alexei Nikitin who has subsequently been interned in a psychiatric hospital.)

In Russia, for more than sixty years, and in the "peoples’ democracies" for more than thirty years, economic development has been in the hands of a capitalist class (a specific neo-bourgeoisie) which was openly totalitarian and ruled through the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party. The form of this domination corresponded to the needs of the moment: primarily, to uproot the enormous mass of peasants in order to make proletarians out of them, and, additionally, to protect the nascent national capital from any foreign economic influence. After the Second World War the same form was applied to the countries annexed by Russia, including already industrialized ones like East Germany and Czechoslovakia. But the problems presented themselves differently in countries as dissimilar as, for example, the East Germany and the Poland of 1945. Paradoxically, the same form of centralized capitalist power was able to adapt itself to an advanced industrial structure like East Germany’s since it corresponded to the needs of capital, (and increased efficiency) as well as to a backward structure like Poland’s (where it administered the country’s development). But behind the facade of Russian military domination, economic realities were all-powerful and affected the attitudes of the national Communist parties. The seemingly identical veil of Party centralism masked social and political realities which were strikingly different. Problems Poland encountered paralleled ones Russia had experienced or was still experiencing. The political and economic structures in the USSR were a hold-over from the period of formal domination of capital; these structures were perpetuated by certain backward sectors which maintained in a state of semi-backwardness an economy that had already largely passed to the stage of real domination. The problem of capital was to mass produce consumer goods, to put into operation modern techniques of production with high productivity, namely to have a field for the unhindered operation of capital. All this presupposed that the system of domination would simuItaneously be transformed into a different system, one compatible with these developments and with changes in the structure of classes, affecting especially peasants and those at the intermediate level of the economic and political hierarchy (these groups bearing resemblance to the middle classes in the Western branch of capital). The class struggle in Poland, even if it may have specific characteristics, clearly brings up these problems. Will the outcome of this struggle be the beginning of a transformation of structures in the Eastern branch of capital?

The international crisis of capital precipitated the economic crisis in Poland. To the extent that Poland’s entire system of industrialization was based on foreign trade – especially with the Western branch of capital – the restriction of this trade hindered its operation. Polish workers rebelled once again when the ruling class tried to make them bear the burden, namely the increased rate of extortion of surplus value. But didn’t every capitalist country face the same problem in this period of crisis? If the workers’ struggle in Poland exposed clearly and brutally the nature of the crisis of capital in the Eastern branch, it simuItaneously exposed the nature of world capital.

In the Western branch of capital, the "solution" to the crisis, namely, increasing the rate of profit, was no longer seen as an intrusion of politics into economic matters, but as a freedom to be exercised by managers of the economy, a freedom where capital is unrestricted by political or state control. During the preceding decades, the development of capital in the East gave rise to a conflict within the capitalist class itself between politicians (in control of the Party) and technocrats (in control of the economy). This period seems to have come to an end. No one within the capitalist class any longer denies the urgency of economic and political reforms, even if there are disagreements about what methods to use. One wonders if the conflict within the ruling class in Poland and in the other countries in the Eastern branch of capital, the conflict over economic reforms leading to more "freedom" (namely, greater productivity of labor by means of a more complete "bondage") may not be a specific case in the global tendencies of international capital. Within a national framework, capital tries to make use of the class struggle as a lever to dislodge the backward forces in its midst (the ones opposed to its present requirements) and to replace them with more trustworthy instruments of domination. But it is impossible to contain the class struggle. Poland provides striking proof that the crisis of capital, namely, the crisis of profit interacting with the class struggle, does not spare so-called "socialist" countries. In the East, as in the West, a free hand for capital does not in any way mean more "freedom" for workers. Given the magnitude of the crisis of profit and the working class reactions to it, the structures of capital oscillate between sharing the management of capital with the workers and repressing them most violently. In this respect, Poland, as a national entity, is just one specific case of the general crisis of capital. Self-management currents in Poland parallel the same currents in other industrialized countries. The military-police repression parallels the most brutal repressions – totalitarian in underdeveloped or industrializing countries, selective in industrialized countries. In fact, capital is trapped by its own development; the modern techniques which are widely diffused through competition cannot be entirely efficient in a totalitarian context or in a context of manipulated poverty. Nevertheless, the crisis of profit and the class struggle can be overcome only if capital is free to increase exploitation. Due to the interpenetration of the economies in both branches of capital, the failures and crises specific to one country become the failure and crisis of capital as a whole. The situation in Poland further accentuates the crisis which rages everywhere and further intensifies the class struggle. The question now is not what will become of Poland, but where will the chaos appear next in the West or in the East?