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THE EVOLUTION OF INTER-IMPERIALIST RELATIONS SINCE THE SECOND WORLD WAR
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Content:

The evolution of inter-imperialist relations since the Second World War
Two giants face to face
From cold war to détente
The crisis of 1975
A world once again too small for imperialist appetites
China and Russia
The pre-war period has begun
Africa and Europe
The tasks the party must fulfil to prepare a revolutionary outcome to the crisis
From yesterday to today
From today to tomorrow
Notes
Source


The evolution of inter-imperialist relations since the Second World War
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The general Meeting of the International Communist Party held on 29-30 October 1977 was devoted to a study of the development of inter-imperialist relations resulting from the present general crisis of capitalism. The following is a summary of that study with the appended political report.

In 1946 we wrote in our organ «Prometeo»:

«The revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat understands clearly the fact that a capitalist dictatorship on a world scale has followed the World War. This dictatorship is maintained by a co-ordinating body of the major powers which henceforth deprive the small states and a number of those which, until now, were considered as «great powers», of any autonomy and sovereignty. This great world political force is an expression of the bourgeoisie's attempt to centralise its inexorable dictatorship, while masking it behind the formulae of «United Nations» and «Security Council». Its success would constitute a complete triumph for the principles of fascism, which, in the real dialectic of history, the conquered have bequeathed to the conquerors.
The more or less lengthy duration of this international totalitarian rule of capital depends upon the economic possibilities offered to the practically intact productive machine of the victors - principally the United States. The situation now augurs for many years of profitable investment and frantic capitalist accumulation in the deserts created by the war and in those countries which the destruction's of the war have precipitated from the lofty summits of capitalist development to colonial backwardness.
The fundamental perspective of revolutionary Marxists is that this centralised bourgeois organisation cannot last forever. In fact the vertiginous rhythm which it will impart to the administration of all human resources, and which will be accompanied by the merciless enslavement of the producing masses, will give rise to new antagonisms and new crises, to collisions between the hostile social classes and - within the camp of bourgeois dictatorship itself - to collisions between the colossal nation states. However, now that the war is over, we cannot expect this complex cycle to run its course very rapidly
» (1).

More than thirty years have elapsed since these lines were written. But they summarise the history of those three decades incisively and describe the turn capitalism has taken under the whip of the international crisis which they predicted. Thus in these times when it is easy to lose one's head, our party doesn't have to search for answers; it already possesses them. And since these have been confirmed by history, it can concentrate all its forces on accomplishing those tasks for which it has prepared itself from birth: the historic struggle for the preparation of the world victory of the communist dictatorship.

America and Russia took great care not to end the war until they had occupied the territory abandoned by the losers and had met face to face in military occupation of both the defeated states and their own minor allies. This is because they were conscious of their counterrevolutionary mission: to prevent the miseries of defeat from provoking a new social upheaval, as had happened after the First World War. But the necessary result was that their victory made them not only «guarantors of imperialist peace» but also new imperialist competitors and adversaries in a future world conflict.

Two giants face to face
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What is the historical dynamic of these two giants that are being pushed into inevitable confrontation? The USA has been an industrial power of the first order since the beginning of the century, with favourable geographic, historical, and strategic conditions. It became the greatest financial power in the world by profiting from the First World War. After the Second World War it became an omnipresent imperialism with gigantic appetites whetted by the swelling of its wartime productive apparatus. Its ambitions were not limited to England's former designs on Europe; it hoped to devour Europe as far as the Ural, an aspiration evidenced by the plans of such financiers as Wallace, who dreamt of buying Russia the same way the US was buying England and all Europe (2).

America is thus the epitome of imperialism. From the moment the limits of its sphere of influence became too narrow to contain both its own strength augmented by a new cycle of accumulation, and the renewed strength of Europe and Japan, it had to manifest its tendency to conquer the entire world. And naturally, the American bourgeoisie would advance under the banner of freedom and human rights, just as it has since its inception when it monopolised the whole continent, then claimed China, and finally swallowed Europe.

For its part the Russian State is driven by a different dynamic. Historically, military competition has stimulated its economic development - from Peter the Great to Stalin - and wars have stimulated its social progress - from the abolition of serfdom to the Bolshevik Revolution, not to mention the democratic revolution of 1905. This military dynamic is accentuated both by Russia's continental position, which necessitates a buffer zone and protection of its accesses to the sea, and by the immensity of its territory, which until now has prevented Russia from waging war on two fronts simultaneously (in Europe and Siberia) and has resulted in its diplomatic balancing act.

Therefore Russian domination of Eastern Europe (and Manchuria until 1948) is not only determined by a policy of creating buffer zones, which were originally designed to protect a ruined Russia from a powerful, nuclear-armed America. It also stems from the irrepressible need, essentially for military reasons, to remedy the economic backwardness of an imperialism still regional in comparison with the world imperialism of the USA. This was only possible through the pillage of the economically more advanced countries. Thus, by evoking hypocritically the faded glory of the betrayed revolution and the relative weakness of its economy, Russia was able to pretend that its armies advanced for the alleged defence of the socialist camp against the imperialist camp.

The adversaries in the next world conflict have been face to face since 1945. They have already sharpened their ideological weapons for this conflict, which is disguised by the one camp as a crusade for liberty and human rights and by the other camp as an anti-imperialist struggle. Carter and Breznev have invented nothing new, as the text we quoted shows (3).

From cold war to détente
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It has always been clear to our party that the key to the post-war period was precisely Russo-American joint rule over Europe, and that the status quo could not be challenged again until, with the economic power of Europe and Japan restored, the cycle of capitalist accumulation had led to a new rupture in the equilibrium between the two blocs, an equilibrium which left the Russian zone economically lagging behind Western capitalism. The Cold War was thus the direct continuation of the Second World War. It was characterised by the partition between the superpowers of the zones left free by the old exhausted European imperialism's when they were swept out by the anti-imperialist wave that began in China and then spread progressively throughout all Asia and North Africa, causing repercussions in Black Africa and Latin America (4). But this Cold War, carefully confined to the Third World arena, necessitated an increased pressure on Europe, while war propaganda provided an alibi for the joint imperialist stranglehold formalised by the signing of the NATO accord and the Warsaw Pact in 1947. Their positions secured, neither Russia nor the USA has had to change a single comma in the treaty already signed at Yalta. The climax of this period was the Suez crisis in 1956, when France and England bowed to Nasser under combined US and Russian pressure.

Meanwhile, history marched on. The development of Russian capitalism created a growing need for productivity (5), while the uprisings of Berlin and Budapest showed the need for a slight relaxation of the economic pressure Russia exerted on its satellites. The American crisis of the sixties and the economic resurgence of Europe and Japan marked the end of America's near-autarky and nuclear monopoly. Moreover, the danger of the anti-colonial wave obliged the USA to intervene as policeman as early as 1958. At the turn of the sixties all these factors resulted in a détente in Russian-American relations (6). But it goes without saying that this détente could signify nothing other than a greater burden on the exploited classes and the smaller states. And was it not accompanied by a «balance of terror» which has twice led to nuclear alerts (Cuba in 1962, the Middle East in 1973), and which is rooted in an unbridled arms race?

During this period the joint rule functioned perfectly, first at Berlin, then at Prague and Lisbon, despite centrifugal tendencies in either camp; and it was reaffirmed at Helsinki. It has even spread to the Third World, where détente has given the USA a free hand to play the role of policeman on all continents, from Santo Domingo to Leopoldville, and particularly in Indonesia. When there have been battles (the Middle East and Vietnam) the resulting compromises have enabled the USA to reassert its supremacy. However, the anticipated economic effects, notably the opening up of the East, have only started to make themselves felt timidly since 1971.

The crisis of 1975
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But under the iron heel of Russian-American entente the very factors that would undermine it were developing, in particular those which contributed to the maturation of the crisis of overproduction, whose first serious assault culminated in 1975, closing the post-war cycle of expansion. It is interesting to note that the productive cycle, which preceded the crisis, accelerated capital concentration and international trade. In reaction to the omens of crisis manifested in monetary conflicts, it aggravated the tendencies, which engendered the crisis of overproduction, by unifying the cycles of different capitalist economies and raising competition to the maximum. It thus reduced the chances of recovering from the crisis without creating even more serious crises (7).

Meanwhile, the «oil crisis» (8) illustrated that the deterioration in the terms of trade could only be prevented if the underdeveloped countries exploited the increasing demand for raw materials in order to alter the division of ground rent in their favour. It showed particularly that the solution adopted has resulted in a deepening of the abyss between rich and poor countries, while the increased indebtedness of the poor multiplies the risk of financial and social crises, as the 1977 riots in Egypt demonstrate.

It is true that capitalism has resisted this first attack of the illness relatively well. What are the factors that have helped it to surmount this attack? First, the massive unification of the international financial system in the hands of the USA has provided for the enormous transfers of capital holdings provoked by the oil crisis by maintaining their circulation essentially within the traditional banking circuit in the form of petrodollars. But can the transformation of crises into financial explosions be avoided in the long run if the mark and the yen succeed in attaining autonomy in relation to the dollar? The unification of the financial system by the USA has enabled it to delay the commercial and tariff war opened by the manipulation of exchange rates and the constant revaluation of the mark and the yen since 1971. Nevertheless the commercial war has begun: we need only think of the battles raging in the fields of nuclear industry, aeronautics, steel, textiles, computers, and telecommunications. Today the alternative is protectionism or «orderly marketing». But orderly marketing is nothing other than protectionism, organised, however, under the aegis of the USA and for its benefit.

The other factors that explain capitalism's resistance are of a social nature. First, it is necessary to see that the crisis occurred after the end of what we have called the «eruptive phase» of the anti-imperialist movement. And we must recognise that the bourgeoisie did everything in its power to avoid a fusion of this movement and the economic crisis. This is one of the secrets of Kissinger's «shuttle diplomacy» both in Asia and the Middle East. But there is little chance that the closing of this cycle will calm the «zone of storms» (9). Instead, this time the proletariat will take the lead in new social upheavals to defend its own class interests, drawing the poor peasant masses along behind it in a context where the revolutionary halo of bourgeois classes that have attained political independence will appear increasingly tarnished. The riots in Cairo also point to a future pregnant with social struggle, and we hope that their development will come quickly enough to be a factor in the deepening of the capitalist crisis.

We must also bear in mind the terrible delay in the curve of proletarian struggle caused by the Stalinist counterrevolution, by the inertia spread through the powerful shock absorbers of social reformism and by the machinations of «workers' parties'» opportunism (10). However it should be noted that where the weight of these factors is felt least, due to the greater weakness of capitalism or the particular trajectory of opportunism, the workers' struggles are more sustained and more perseverant, and even exhibit undeniable class spirit. This is the case in Spain and in Poland, and - to our great pleasure - in haughty England, yesterday the despot of the world market, today reduced to a small industrial country that shows all Europe its future of irremediable decay. Certainly this still does not suffice to change the general social situation. But with the permanence of these struggles, one of the necessary conditions for the party's work, and for the reversal of the historical factors, which inhibit the general revival of class struggle, is beginning to appear. The capitalist crisis must continue to aggravate the condition of the working class and liquidate the guarantees granted to large sections of the workers. It will thus weaken the factors, which hinder the proletarian struggle and hasten the evolution of the opportunist parties. Therefore, with the development of the capitalist crisis, there is a greater probability that the class struggle will become an objective factor in the crisis in the coming years.

This is why revolutionary communists have a clear understanding that the productive crisis of 1975 was not a simple crisis - even the bourgeoisie is convinced of this- but a veritable turning point in the history of the twentieth century.

A world once again too small for imperialist appetites
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The international crisis has already resulted in a notable acceleration in the race for markets, in the quest for raw materials, and in the race to export capital, not only in the form of loans, but also as direct investments. The result of this is protection of the existing spheres of influence, which is particularly clear in the case of the USA with its exclusive preserves in Latin America since 1971. This race also explains America's full-scale return to the Middle East in 1973 and Russia's tendency to take more than a passing interest in the quest for raw materials, notably in Southern Africa and Morocco. Finally, although the inevitable tendency of Japan and Europe to establish spheres of influence is still being blocked by American financial power and military might, there is nonetheless already a growing economic dependence of certain small countries on these imperialist states: Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Rumania, etc., on West Germany; Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, etc., on Japan; Black Africa on France.

But the most profound tendency the crisis could have produced in the area of international relations is the intensification of East-West economic intercourse. This is for two reasons. On the one hand there is the enormous weight with which the West - a capitalist high pressure zone - bears down on the East, which has always been an area of relative capitalist low pressure. On the other hand, in the East there is an irresistible attraction created by the enormous demand for Western technology. However, this West to East current is impeded by many factors. For the East, the opening of its market would produce dangerous centrifugal tendencies immediately. It should be noted that between 1971 and 1976 the fraction of West German trade conducted with the East bloc rose from only 3.5% to almost 10%, making West Germany the East's principal trading partner by far. This was sufficient for West Germany to replace Russia as the principal trading partner of several countries, for example Rumania and Poland. This has happened despite the measures taken since 1971 to reinforce the economic and financial centralisation of COMECON, a centralisation, moreover, whose effects confirm that Russian pillage of the small countries of Eastern Europe is still going strong.

The West regards the East as a veritable Eldorado, and the USA takes a keen interest in the treasures of Siberia. But capital investment in the territory of an adversary entails enormous risk. Thus America prefers to allow Germany and Japan to take the first steps, a tactic which has the advantage of providing an outlet for their economic appetites and - if the USA can manage it - of concentrating their imperialist aggressiveness on Russia. However, this also entails a great risk: that of a direct entente between Japan and Russia. Naturally, the USA resists such an outcome fiercely, for example by forbidding Tokyo to help in the construction of a second Transsiberian railroad, or to reach an agreement with Moscow for nuclear co-operation. But the USA will not be able to impose such restrictions indefinitely. Consequently, the borders of the East are still only half open, and worse still, the crisis has caused a contraction of Eastern markets. Given the formidable economic pressures forcing the two zones to co-operate more intimately, if links cannot be developed by peaceful means then they will have to be created by other means. This is the change in perspective brought about by the crisis.

One other factor must be taken into account for a full understanding of the international situation. Since the Second World War the Eastern economy has had a more rapid rate of growth because of the relative youthfulness of that geo-historic area from a capitalist point of view. As a result, Russia, by the mere logic of its economic development and its own military dynamic, has been transformed from the regional power it once was into a world power.

Thus while the sphere dominated by American imperialism exerts a more and more unbearable economic pressure on the East - which has repercussions in the military sphere - Russian imperialism, driven by the dialectic of its relative economic backwardness, exerts an accentuated, directly military pressure on the West. With the revival of Japanese and European imperialism, and the emergence of the young Chinese power in Asia, the international game has ceased to be bipolar and has become multipolar.

China and Russia
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It is undeniable that the equilibrium that once existed between Russia and America has already undergone a profound transformation with China's new alliance. The fact that this evolution of Chinese politics, initiated by the quarrel with Moscow, reached its culmination in 1975, shows clearly that the objective turnabout in the world situation has become a factor in the subjective politics and strategy of the big powers. Our party has always pointed out the historical tendency which, for economic and geographical reasons, pushes China and America into alliance (11). Only the formal conclusion of this alliance could have allowed the Paris accords, the end of the Vietnam war, and the turnabout in American politics effected by the Carter administration.

From the Russian point of view, the quarrel with China has already obliged Moscow to increase its military presence on the Eastern frontier from 14 to 43 divisions between 1968 and 1974. However, for strategical purposes the Far East constitutes Russia's military rear, while its imperialist centre of gravity is located in Europe. Consequently Russia remains incapable of entering a western war, into which China will necessarily be drawn, on good footing, without concluding an alliance in the East. Thus, as much to counterbalance China as - hypothetically - to draw it into an alliance, Russia needs an alliance with Japan. This objective must constitute the key to Russian strategy in the Far East.

China's new alliance and the ability of American Polaris missiles to strike at Russia from submarines in the Indian Ocean since the sixties, together with the Russian retreat from the Middle East begun in 1970, have resulted in a relative weakening of Russia's position. This could only be compensated for first by an acceleration of the arms race, and later by a military «offensivism». This is what underlies the servile theories of certain Maoist groups which raise the spectre of «Russian expansionism» and appeal for national defence in the European imperialist countries today, just as they will call for the defence of the entire Western bloc tomorrow.

It has been clearly established that Russia's naval armament is determined by the need to protect itself against American rockets, by the needs arising from its continental antagonism with China, and finally by the need to control the sea routes around Europe, the vital objective of the two world giants. It is clear that these tendencies are directly in conflict with the imperialist interests of the USA, which also covets the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and now Africa, as much for its wealth as for its strategic role. Thus, as a result of the development of military technology and imperialist expansion, this entire region has become a security zone for the two great powers simultaneously, not to mention the smaller imperialist powers, such as France, which are mired in this region up to their necks.

These facts totally refute the theory of «defencism» demolished by the Marxist critique 70 years ago. Who is the aggressor and who the victim when the entire world has become a feeding ground for everyone's imperialist appetites? And once again, it is the most powerful giant, the USA, which goads the weaker into aggression. But both of them are bandits and the proletariat must deny both of them its support if it hopes to be able to destroy them one day.

The pre-war period has begun
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We can say that the pre-war period began in 1975. A noteworthy proof of this is provided by the arms race, not in the fact of the race itself, which is a permanent phenomenon, but in its quantitative acceleration and particularly its qualitative evolution. The point is that the arms levels that corresponded to the «balance of terror» are not those which would ensure victory in an imperialist conflict. This is not to say that these weapons would not be used tomorrow, either to take advantage of a decisive moment or to intimidate the proletariat. If they used blanket bombings at Dresden and Hamburg, or destroyed the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atom bombs yesterday, the imperialist states of today can do much better with their impressive stocks of H-bombs, MIRVs, and more recently, cruise missiles and neutron bombs. However, we have now passed from the era of simple «deterrence» to that of the «flexible response». All research today is concentrated on the development of tactical nuclear weapons and more accurate delivery systems rather than greater firepower, on protection against enemy missiles and on improving conventional weaponry. Even the most devout worshippers of disarmament are obliged to recognise that progress in technological discoveries has rendered all arms limitation agreements obsolete, which proves that these agreements serve no other purpose than to divert attention from the real arms race. They have been forced to admit that the juicy profits squeezed from arms sales and particularly from competition between Russia and the USA have made nonsense of all attempts to limit the proliferation of arms, even nuclear weaponry. They must accept the evidence: within the context of capitalism there is only one way to disarm an enemy, and that is to destroy him by force.

The preparation for a new imperialist conflict is distinctly discern-able in the strategy of the two superpowers, and particularly that of the most powerful imperialism, the USA. It is self-evident that Carter's policies are the politics of war. If Kissinger's détente was based on Russo-American joint rule over Europe, the new American strategy is founded on an alliance with Japan and Europe, for which Germany, because it causes the USA the greatest anxiety, must furnish the axis. The core of the Brzezinski doctrine lies in an attempt to channel the renewed aggressiveness of Europe and Japan towards Russia, heralding the end of the era governed by the Yalta agreements.

This policy goes hand in hand with an attempt to avert the dangers of social explosion, above all in Europe, which, in the mind of the new Washington administration, will become the principal threat to democracy (read: the established world order). This is why a counterrevolutionary entente with Russia - although it would entail a different orientation of US policy - is still necessary. For all these reasons the preferred battlefield in the impending war will be Europe, but it will also be the theatre of war which presents the greatest danger for this handsome lot.

Naturally, this strategy contains serious unknowns. However we must acknowledge that our most powerful enemy has the will to confront them. He is preparing for this confrontation, as always, under the banner of freedom and human rights, which he waves in Europe against the «Russian threat», in Africa against Russia and the remnants of European imperialism, and in Latin America against the excesses of the puppet regimes placed in power by the USA itself.

Africa and Europe
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From this study a picture emerges which illuminates all the conclusions we have already drawn empirically: the future is now being prepared in Africa.

Because this continent has yet to be divided up between the big superpowers at the very time when the redivision of the world has begun, and because, together with the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, it forms part of a larger whole which is of vital strategic importance, Africa has been chosen as a staging area for the future world imperialist conflict. It is therefore obvious that Moscow's anti-imperialist campaign, as well as Washington's crusade for human rights, must be combated relentlessly by the party, and their hypocrisy revealed through the examples provided by events within Africa.

This zone is also important because the anti-colonialist wave has been prolonged precisely in the South, where the working class is most concentrated, providing an opportunity to link up with the wave of workers' and peasants' struggles which must break over all oppressed continents. If one adds to this the fact that everything which occurs in this area has inevitable repercussions in Europe, the events in Africa may be of great help to the European proletariat in its struggle against the old bourgeois strongholds. In this context, the party must conduct a resolute fight for defeatism in the quarrels between the imperialist brigands, and campaign for class solidarity with the anti-imperialist struggles developing in the colonial world. The alliance between the proletariat of the imperialist metropolis and the exploited masses of the enslaved countries, so sadly missing from the social wave during the «eruptive phase» of the anti-colonial revolt, may be forged anew in the fire of the imminent upheavals in Africa.

All the manifestations of the economic crisis -the imbalances caused by the arms race; the alterations of alliances sparked by national rivalries and even by social and political struggles in the «Third World» countries; and above all the risks of abrupt changes in the policies of Japan and Europe, and especially of Germany - all these must be counted among the factors capable of causing a radical disruption of the present balance of power between the huge imperialist giants. There is not a single bourgeois politician who would neglect to portray Japan's tendencies toward rearmament, or the reunification of Germany, as possible elements in the further evolution of world politics, but possible only at the price of spectacular upsets in the network of alliances. What is most disquieting for the bourgeoisie is the accumulation of inflammable materials in Europe, with its heartland in Germany, for Europe is tormented by centrifugal tendencies in the two blocs and divided down the middle by the two superpowers. More than any other region, Europe will become sensitive to the mood of the most tremendous concentration of proletarian masses, which the deepening of the crisis cannot help but set in motion. This makes Europe not only the most «volatile variable» in relations between the two superpowers, but also once again the potential centre of gravity in the social struggle.

If we compare this pre-war period with the post-First World War situation, we note that twelve years elapsed between the moment when England decided that entente with Germany was impossible and began systematic preparations for war, and the outbreak of the war itself. England's policy consisted in an encirclement of Germany and concessions both to its external allies and to the proletariat through Lloyd George's domestic reforms. Is this not the same policy Carter is implementing now, albeit with more difficulty?

The proletariat would not be able to take advantage of the years that separate us from the approaching world conflict, to prepare to transform it into a civil war and make it a signal for proletarian revolution, unless from today, and in call camps at the same time, the party were to conduct the most intransigent theoretical fight against bourgeois militarism and against the pretexts for rearmament. Therefore the party must wage a resolute struggle against the theories of national defence in the' bourgeois states - and above all in the imperialist states -, against chauvinism and social pacifism, and for revolutionary defeatism and the international unity of the proletariat, a struggle for the red dictatorship and communism.

The tasks the party must fulfil to prepare a revolutionary outcome to the crisis
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This report has outlined the general tendencies of the present historical cycle of capitalism. This cycle is not only the objective continuation and result of the preceding cycle of capitalist accumulation and expansion, but it is also the result predicted by the Marxist critique, that is by the party, at the end of the Second World War.

It is no coincidence that this report began with a quote from one of our texts from that epoch. This text announced the phenomena which appear increasingly clearly today as an accelerated accumulation of explosive material on the world scale; it indicated what the ideological disguises of a third imperialist butchery would be; and finally it specified the objectives and tasks of the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat confronted by the bourgeois final solution to the crisis, a crisis that would be more than merely economic.

These tasks can be summarised as the preparation of a proletarian response to the perspective of a new conflict presented as yet another crusade for «peace» and «freedom». The specific tasks of the party flow from the necessity of this preparation. On the theoretical level, it requires resurrecting those powerful themes of revolutionary defeatism and the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. In the realm of practice, it requires putting forward these positions within the working class throughout the maturation of the military confrontation and throughout all the phases leading up to it, and organising a growing nucleus of proletarians around the party's doctrine, directives, and slogans. However we must place this work in the context of our history as a party, as an organ of revolutionary combat, taking into consideration the evolution of the objective situation.

From yesterday to today
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On the theoretical level, we foresaw not only the inevitable explosion of the world economic crisis, but also the approximate limits of the cycle within which it would occur. This was no mystical prophecy, but a scientific forecast based on an analysis of the data of the economic cycle and an assessment of its tendencies in the light of Marxist theory.

We were not content merely to predict the outbreak of this crisis. We examined year by year - in an uninterrupted series of analyses of the course of imperialism - those phenomena which revealed the accumulation of material causes and objective factors converging to produce a general convulsion. At the same time, we could not ignore the theoretical arguments, which prohibit Marxists from deriving the curves of social and political evolution - two curves, which differ from each other, though they are linked - mechanically from the curve of economic evolution. We thus outlined the complex factors causing the social curve to lag behind the economic curve, and in doing so we referred both to texts and declarations of our current and to the theses and speeches of the Congresses of the Third International. This lag has been rendered still deeper and more catastrophic by two factors: 1) the Stalinist counterrevolution, and 2) the process of accumulation of capital, with a concomitant reinforcement of capital's domination over labour. Fortified by the counterrevolution, the rule of capital has developed in the post-Second World War period practically without encountering any resistance.

Therefore we did not fall into the trap of establishing a mechanical, i.e. non-dialectical equation between crisis and revolution. This would amount to portraying the superstructure as a direct copy of the economic base, and forgetting that while the former derives from the latter, it is not as a mechanical relationship, but one of reciprocal interaction.

The tactical level is connected to the analysis of all the historical factors at work. In the realm of tactics, as the capitalist crisis slowly matured, our party went through a difficult period, of which our trade union theses, among other documents, are a reflection. These theses were not intended in any way to innovate the party's theory and program. On the contrary, their aim was to retie the revolutionary thread by resuming the analysis of the disastrous consequences for the working class of the «third opportunist wave», whose effects had been added to the older wave of social-democratic opportunism. We therefore had to understand why the revival of the proletarian movement was condemned to begin anew from the lowest level of its spontaneity. Despite our own post-war perspective, we had in fact wished to leap over this stage easily. Thus we indicated that the reconstruction of class trade unions was a priority and almost a prerequisite for economic struggle. This was incorrect because two conditions are indispensable in order to reverse the process by which the former red trade unions had become unions of class collaboration. The conditions are: 1) the rebirth of a broad and vigorous, at least trade-unionist movement of the proletariat, and 2) in its wake, the strengthening of the revolutionary party, a party which must be able to recognise this movement for what it is (and not for what it would like it to be), and which must be determined to inject class consciousness into it. In the absence of these two conditions, the reconstruction of the class trade union, an objective in itself inseparable from our program, could never be attained. Moreover, it was necessary to be aware that the encounter between the class curve and the party curve does not happen as a result of purely objective factors, sufficient in themselves to polarise great masses around the revolutionary communist program and the party that defends it, nor conversely, as a result of intellectual enlightenment. It happens through a process in which the party's action of animation, direction, and organisation is no less decisive than material impulses. This party action is all the more important since the working class movement has been burdened with a long history of defeats, which have not merely plunged it into confusion, but also destroyed it physically.

Therefore the party resumed a cohesive activity in two areas: 1) political, theoretical, and organisational preparation of its militants; and 2) development of interventions which corresponded better to the real level of economic and social struggles, and which were in a better position to elicit a response at least from the vanguard layers of the proletariat compelled to fight instinctively against the bourgeoisie and its opportunist servants. The outbreak of the crisis has shown the accuracy of our «balance sheet», or rather, our forecast, which did not date from 1972, but went back at least to 1950. It obliged us to fight consistently for the day-to-day defence of the proletariat's living, working, and class struggle conditions, reaffirming the great themes of the means, the methods, and even the contents of a serious resistance to the capitalist offensive. This fight, directed against what was really a united front of the bourgeoisie and opportunism, could only be waged through the channels opened by history, and not by our will. On the one hand, we had to wage the fight within the trade unions, which contained the vast majority of the workers, without succumbing to any illusions about the possibility of transforming, or much less, conquering them. And on the other hand, the fight had to be carried into the fragile organisms that tiny groups of proletarians were induced to create in their confused and often contradictory attempt to organise a defence for which the trade unions did not offer the thinnest support. In this aspect of our work, we had no illusions about the ability of these organisms to resist the pressure of trade union opportunism for very long, or indeed the pressure of spontaneist or leftist currents in general. Such groups often create defensive organisms artificially, and then always try to mould them into a vehicle for «political» recruitment, thereby depriving them of their character as organisms open to workers of any political affiliation. Once they have fulfilled this function or can no longer be used for general political agitation, these defensive organisms are simply abandoned to their fate. Consequently we intervene in them without any illusory faith in their long-term stability, and without pretending that they are the pillars of a «new trade union organisation», much less the embryonic forms of intermediate «political» organisations.

Our fight still remained theoretical; but our theory was intended for action. We could not expect to mobilise even a consistent nucleus of workers, let alone the masses, even if we hoped that the workers' reaction to the violent shock of the crisis would not be as slow and painful as it has turned out to be. But if our theory could not yet be translated into slogans, it could provide a general perspective for regrouping the workers into a compact resistance front, regardless of their political affiliation and their place in production.

On the level of economic struggles - and only on that level - we cannot exclude theoretically the possibility of a minimum temporary convergence with other forces, a convergence that does not imply effacing the limits defined by our theory and our program. We regarded this possibility as minimal a priori, and put it forward with all the necessary reservations. And the facts have confirmed the old Marxist thesis that the only ones who really defend the class in its most immediate and humble interests, and try to organise this defence without any philistine prejudices, are precisely those who defend firmly the ultimate aims of communism in all situations.

Though of negligible weight from the point of view of recruitment, the results of the little battle we have been fighting appear precious in the long run. They consist in the experience accumulated by the entire party in the sector of economic struggle. This sector has always been vital to us, but until now we had only succeeded in penetrating it through tiny cracks, and generally at a local level. Concretely, this experience has meant a broadening of our contacts with the class and of our political propaganda, the acquisition of a more widespread and deep-rooted militant spirit, a strengthening and improved adaptation of our organisational structure, and above all an extension and deepening of our theoretical and practical struggle against opportunism in all its forms, including «leftism». Thus a process, contradictory in appearance only has been set in motion on the terrain of struggle, on a scale we have no intention of overestimating. This is the process through which the party begins to acquire roots in the class, emerging from its objective isolation. At the same time, the party appears unique, with its own character, standing out from all the «intermediate» and pseudo-revolutionary political formations.

From today to tomorrow
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We have never spread any illusions among the proletariat about the fact that the curve of the working class movement has been descending for decades. But is this curve in the process of rising again? We feel that it is beginning to rise slowly in a still molecular process, after having touched bottom. We see signs of this not so much in episodes of open proletarian revolt, which are not sufficient to make a lasting break in the «social peace», as in the more and more frequent manifestations of anger and disillusionment with the arrogance of reformist opportunism. In fact, the void beginning to form around opportunism in some places, which the inexorable pressure of the crisis can only accentuate, will compel it to remove the last mask behind which it conceals its unconditional defence of the established order. We detect symptoms of a slow rise of the working class movement in the internal crisis afflicting «leftism» aligned on the same front as classical opportunism under the banner of a «workers'» or «left» government. This process can only be accelerated by the imperious necessity for capital to impose new sacrifices and new disciplinary constraints upon the working class. Lastly we see signs of a resurgence in the panic stirred up among the bourgeois and opportunists by every confused and superficial form of revolt against factory despotism or every violation of the painfully constructed social peace, not to mention the effects of terrorism. This panic is so out of proportion with its causes that it can only be explained by the acute fear on the part of the ruling class and its servants that the embers of revolt, and not just discontent, are smouldering silently under the appearance of social calm. The bourgeoisie fears that the epicentre of this revolt is - or might become - the working class, and not the petty-bourgeois fringes momentarily pushed to the forefront by the fractures of society.

For the working class, and thus also for us, the way forward will necessarily be strewn with obstacles. In particular, opportunism cannot fail to reappear - as has happened already - in other more «romantic», but still dangerous forms, such as anarcho-syndicalism, spontaneism, and terrorist revolt. These currents must be nourished by the economic crisis and by the fact that the sluggishness of the proletarian revival does not point to a gradual and uniform process, but to an alternation of sudden and almost unpredictable explosions with equally sudden relapses, even if the general movement is ascending.

This means that a much broader field of action is opening up to us than in the past, a field no longer limited to theoretical and programmatic propaganda or the immediate defence of the living and working conditions of the proletariat. It presents a perspective potentially leading up to the offensive. On the theoretical level our activity must consist in a demonstration of the validity of Marxism, a demonstration which the deepening of the crisis confirms more forcefully every day through great historical events as well as through material facts, and through the bankruptcy of gradualist and reformist illusions. On the practical level, the party must intervene in the formation of vanguard nuclei which are prepared to fight resolutely not only against the effects of the economic crisis, but also against its causes, so that they tend toward the «qualitative leap» from the terrain of defensive struggle and resistance to that of a general, offensive, political struggle.

It is for this reason that, at a recent party meeting, we emphasised the need to confirm the striking political lessons embodied in our doctrine by means of the material evidence of the crisis the class is now passing through. This does not imply that intervention in economic struggles could or should be abandoned, but instead that the objective conditions are taking shape which may enable partial struggles to give rise to a growing consciousness, within broader circles of workers, of the need to go beyond the limits of the purely economic terrain. As Lenin showed, we must fan these sparks with an intervention of broader scope. By tempering the party's activity in the fires ignited by theses sparks, we will be able to lay the basis for an organised response to the perspective of a third imperialist war as a solution to the increasingly agonising dilemmas engendered by the economic and social crisis.

Furthermore, the 1977 party meeting emphasised the gigantic task of struggling against chauvinism, militarism, crusades of «psychological» war preparation, and any manifestations of the race to conquer strategic bases outside Europe today, and inside Europe tomorrow. This struggle must be theoretical at first, then practical and organisational - but these two aspects are closely interwoven. Our task cannot be measured by its immediate results, but we must nonetheless devote ourselves to it immediately, because the cycle leading to war has accelerated, while an adequate revolutionary preparation will still require time.

If we have conquered even a small space in the class during these last years, and if we have grown stronger as a result, then we must defend that space fiercely and neglect no opportunity to enlarge it patiently, methodically, and without respite. The fact that we refused the cheap gains of the «revolutionary phrase» throughout these decades during which it has been exploited by «leftist» currents, enables us to continue to reject it firmly, in order to confront the serious tasks of preparation for the cycle of social upheaval unfolding before us.

We will only be able to fulfil these tasks if we continue straight ahead along our road, avoiding the pitfalls of easy dividends, empty boasting, and resignation to unfavourable day-to-day circumstances.

Notes:
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  1. «Le prospettive del dopoguerra in relazione alla Piattaforma del Partito». October 1946, republished in «Per l'organica sistemazione dei principi comunisti» (Milan, Edizioni «Il Programma comunista», pp. 142-144). [back]
  2. See the articles from 1947 and 1949 republished in « Per l'organica sistemazione dei principi comunisti», entitled «America», «Ancora America», «Aggressione all'Europa», «United States of Europe», etc. [back]
  3. See «Le prospettive del dopoguerra...» and particularly the chapters entitled: «La possibile guerra come falsa crociata anticapitalista», and «La guerra futura come erociata antitotalitaria». [back]
  4. Our party has done an enormous amount of work in integrating national and peasant factors into the Marxist perspective, notably from 1953 to 1960, with a rich list of contributions, from «Fattori di razza e nazione nella teoria marxista» to «L'incandescente risveglio delle «gente di colore» nella visione marxista». [back]
  5. See «Dialogue avec les morts», concerning the XXth Congress of the C.P.S.U. [back]
  6. On this subject, see the series of articles which appeared in «Il programma comunista», nos. 1.6 (1960), entitled: «La 'distensione', aspetto recente della crisi capitalista». [back]
  7. See «The Course of World Imperialism» in «Communist Program» no.1 and «Cours de l'impérialisme mondial» in «Programme Communiste» no. 72. [back]
  8. See «Programme Communiste» no. 64 (October 1974). [back]
  9. See the editorial in «Le Prolétaire», no. 196 (May, 1975) entitled «Le cycle de l'éveil de l'Asie ne s'est fermé que pour se rouvrir sur un plan plus élevé», and also in no. 223 (June, 1976) entitled «Le volcan du Proche-Orient». [back]
  10. See «Once Again on crisis and Revolutions», which appeared in «Communist Program», no. 1. [back]
  11. See «Il Programma Comunista», no. 6 (1953) and «Le Prolétaire», no. 137 (30 October 1972). [back]

Source: «Communist Program» No. 5, June 1979

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