May Day 2001

Only the working class can end the nightmare of capitalism - This statement is based on a longer critique of the recent Summit of the Americas issued by our comrades in Canada; it is being distributed by the IBRP and its supporters in Europe and north America

Capitalism is not the best system in a bad world. It is the single most important cause of the world's misery. Since the last global imperialist conflict ended in 1945 over 50 million people have been killed. Millions more have died in preventable famines and so-called “natural disasters”. Two million have died in Iraq in the last decade due to the West's genocidal blockade of the equally genocidal Saddam Hussein. Wherever we look - from Israel/Palestine to the Balkans, to Chechnya, Indonesia or Africa - the massacres continue. Whilst religion and nationalism are the nominal reasons for these conflicts the real reason is the struggle for resources amongst the capitalist powers. Local conflicts become internationally shocking genocides only because of the involvement of the richest urban economies.

Yet somehow this is presented as unconnected to daily life outside the war zones. Here they tell us we have just experienced a decade long boom in the world economy! It is a boom which no amount of official statistics can verify for the 80% of the world's population whose living standards have been slashed in that time. This is one of the consequences of the new “globalised” economy where investment is not heavily tied to this or that geographical area. The five or six great industrial centres which control 75% of world production can simply write off the losses in one plant if it means they can move to another area to take advantage of inward investment grants, tax breaks and a docile and unprotected labour force. As for the boom, a few people with connections to the parasitic financial markets have done very nicely over the last decade but for the bottom 20% of the advanced capitalist world the gap between them and a basic standard of living has grown.

Now, however, the long feared US stock market financial bubble has burst. The Federal Reserve's half percent cuts in interest rates are attempts to soften the recession which is developing in America and consequently in the world. Already the Japanese banking system teeters on collapse as the full extent of bad debts is being exposed. And world wide they are preparing us for a further round of sackings and wage cuts. Massive redundancies have been announced in hi-tech firms (globally 100,000 jobs in telecoms alone have gone in just 10 weeks) and more will follow. Globalisation only reminds us that wage workers everywhere are in the same boat, at the mercy of the ups and downs of capitalism.

“Globalisation” is Capitalist Imperialism

There is nothing essentially new about today's globalisation. It is the continuation of the tendency towards the centralisation of capital, identified by Marx, which led to the great imperialist monopolies. That is why we still qualify our epoch as that of imperialism; quite simply imperialism is the era of capitalist competition on an international scale. What is new is the mass of capital at the disposal of the monopolies today. Now, the great transnationals are dominated by finance capital rather than by industrial capital. They control more wealth than almost all the states on the planet. In this way, a new contradiction has been grafted onto the capitalist system. The system is essentially organised around nation states, but these states and particularly those of the periphery, have less and less control over what happens within their borders. That is why the reformists who fill meetings such as the “People's Summit” held during the recent Summit of the Americas in Quebec, or the anti-Davos “World Social Forum” in Porto Alegre in February, would like to return to the “good old capitalism” of the long boom following the Second World War whose end was indicated by the collapse of the Bretton-Woods agreement in 1971. But that capitalism is finished, shaken to its very core by the crisis of accumulation that we've seen for about thirty years. The time has passed when the ruling class could afford the luxury (at least in the rich countries) of granting relatively “acceptable” public services and social legislation. “Globalisation” is the product of the general crisis of capitalism. Reformists who claim that “another world is possible” without getting rid of the current mode of production, are at best extremely misinformed or at worst the “progressive” accomplices of the capitalist disinformation campaign centered more and more around the concept of citizenship.

The idea that the devastating effects of capitalism can be fought against while the structure remains is as old as capitalism itself and has always had its promoters. Their out-dated political line is that by “civic” action (acting under the completely preposterous idea that we all live in “civil society” and therefore are all equal under capitalism), we can have access to “a city” that we well know has only its sewers and gutters reserved for us.

These policies, which have been taken up in a big way by anti-US liberals of Le Monde Diplomatique and the ATTAC crowd, have become the ideological cement of the whole capitalist left: trade unions, NGO's, feminists, academics, reformist parties and sects. This is the line of the new reformist international coming out of the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre. Its effectiveness is such that openly bourgeois parties are using it more and more. The true nature of this ideology was seen at the opening of the People's Summit, when all these honest “citizens” gathered for cocktails in the comfortable salons of Quebec's National Assembly. The host was none other than their “comrade”, the Premier of Quebec, Bernard Landry, a “lefty” who is particularly useful to the ruling class. Let's bet that Landry even offered solidarity to his “comrade” Bové for his glorious defence of Roquefort cheese! But behind all the speeches, remains reality. This can be summed up in the eloquent declaration from Tarso Fernando Herz Genro, the populist mayor of Porto Alegre, who said:

Neither Porto Alegre nor the World Social Forum oppose the liberalisation of the markets.

In fact, what the capitalist left want most of all is to be invited to the negotiating table. They want to be able to play a full role in containing the working class and class collaboration, i.e. in convincing the whole of humanity that it is condemned to whatever capitalism throws at them. Reformism hopes for nothing more than enlightened barbarism. It will deliver nothing other than more misery and exploitation.

All the recent targets of the anti-globalisation protesters have been occasions where the major imperialist powers have battled against each other. As they come together to discuss crisis management, they all want to see rules for trade and investment that will give the best financial rake-offs to themselves. Thus, contrary to popular mythology, the M.A.I. (Multilateral Agreement to Invest), which would have obliged states to open up even more aspects of the economy to the “free market”, was not scrapped because of the weak-kneed protest of a few feeble reformist organisations. In fact the accord was terminated due to disagreements between some of the major powers, notably European ones. With the collapse of the former Soviet empire, the discipline of the old blocs has broken down and new imperialist forces are arising to replace them. One of these forces is the European Union, which has been in the process of expansion and consolidation since 1992. Another one is being created in the Far East around China, Japan, Korea and the other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The meetings in Seattle and Prague were battlefields for all the imperialist blocs and countries. The Quebec Summit, however, was to prepare for the consolidation of a third bloc. The main countries driving the Quebec meeting (Canada and the USA), hope for a new “Monroe Doctrine” - no European intervention in affairs of the Americas - which would assure them of maximum penetration of the national markets in the area and thus, a greater competitiveness and power on a worldwide scale.

What Is To Be Done?

Numerous siren songs are once again attempting to drown the voices of the tiny forces that try to maintain the red thread of history and stay the course towards a true liberation of humanity. Against all Stalinist and Trotskyists falsifications, we continue to define the next society as Communist, because that is what it will be. To get there however there is still a lot of work to be done. It is high time that the working class refurbish its toolbox. We need to break the yoke of the trade union logic that claims to reconcile the interests of the workers and the vampires that feed off us. We also need to create mass organs of struggle, arising from the struggles themselves and under the absolute control of the people in the workplaces and neighborhoods. Finally, the working class must build its revolutionary organisation, a real communist and internationalist party. Not a party that will lead, over and in the place of workers, but a party that will struggle in the midst of its class, before as well as after the revolution, by contributing its vision of the historical program of true communism.

We refuse to submit because we know that we are not alone. Yes, there is a way out of this city of shadows. “At the call of equality, may the forces of happiness and justice organise!” Long live communism!

IBRP, 1st May 2001