CAPITALIST CATASTROPHE

and

PROLETARIAN STRUGGLES

The “Short walk under the black sun of capital” we published in our review in French Communisme n°59 (October 2007) –and to which we will hereafter refer as the editorial of this review- has given rise to reactions and discussions. The mainly criticized problem is, with good reason, its lack of distance as regards Mike Davis’ book “Planet of Slums” (Verso, 2006) from which we took many facts and information and quoted long excerpts. By doing so, some aspects of the author’s ideology obviously sneaked in our editorial, ideology that we don’t share and with which we didn’t clarify our divergences. We can mention, for example, with regard to Brazil or Argentina, the fact to attribute the working-class districts cleansing exclusively to the “military junta” whereas actually this policies has been led, with an exemplary continuity, by all successive governments for decades. In a more general way, we must admit that by taking Mike Davis’s book as main reference, the editorial mostly focused on the most extreme cases of absolute poverty, and therefore marginalized the importance of the relative deterioration of the proletariat’s survival conditions, i.e. the attacks against these conditions and their consequences, whatever their initial level. So although the editorial emphasized the similarities between several situations that masses of proletarians are submitted to, it did not sufficiently insist on the unavoidable exacerbation of the generalized relative misery as a general limit of the bourgeois society.

In any case, the editorial should at least have been more critical regarding the limits of the main source used, to keep its distance from it or even to develop the antagonism between certain positions of the author and our own framework, as we already did by the way with this same author –Mike Davis- when we extensively referred to his book “City of Quartz” to write our text on jails in the USA, published in French in Communisme n°50 (June 2000). Here is the critique:

Most of the information we give here about Los Angeles are taken from ‘City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles’ by Mike Davis, Knopf Publishing Group (1992), chapter 4, ‘Fortress L.A.’. The author provides a lot of information that allows defining the reality of social classes and capitalism in the United States, but he falls back into the dullest reformism as soon as he ventures into concrete action propositions (which also show the limits of the understanding that leads to the description of this social reality). Among other things, Mike Davis promotes a private bill recommending the organization of an urban peacekeeping force –i.e. cops- intended to help and to supervise a process of truce between the gangs in Los Angeles! Another blatant evidence that reformism, however original in its form, inevitably ends up calling for new police forces.

Beyond the problems that we have just clarified, it is also obvious that the relation between the deterioration of proletarians’ survival conditions and what we are firstly interested in –i.e. the revolution- is not explicit in our editorial. The proletariat as a subject of the revolution emerges there only through the final quotation of Pannekoek. Although it expresses the fundamentals of our program, the connection between the deepening of the crises, the development of the proletariat’s struggles and the meltdown of capitalism is envisioned in an exceedingly global way, valid for any given moment in time, and cannot depict how exceptional the present situation of capitalism is. Let’s use again the conclusions preceding this quotation in our last review:

All along this walk under the black sun of capital, we tried to broach the capitalist catastrophe from the point of view of the proletariat’s day-to-day life all over the planet while providing a series of concrete examples. It seems to us important to put a reality on words and not content ourselves with merely expressing what exists. This catastrophe is so deep today that it immediately became palpable, visible and condenses in all the aspects of proletarians’ life; firstly in work: never has it been so hard, destructive and so few remunerative. Food then, always more deteriorated and contaminated to such a level that it kills as much, if not more, than it feeds. Housing conditions also probably reached unprecedented horrendous levels; we have extensively described them. And then diseases, always more virulent and massive, destroying and crushing thousands of lives. Wars also, always more widespread and destructive. The biotope finally, which is used as environment for our species, always more damaged, always more dangerous, always more poisoned… giving hints that in the decades to come its destruction may well be a possibility, causing the end of everything that lives on the surface of the globe. In short, capitalism, in a visible and palpable way, appears for an increasing mass of proletarians all over the world for what it really is: an apocalypse, a hell. One could endlessly add on to this description only to reach the same conclusions: capital ended up exacerbating to an extraordinary level most of its own contradictions and especially the most essential, i.e. the production of a plethoric social class for which it has no use regarding the present necessities of its own valorisation-devalorisation. Today too many capitals fail to valorise themselves, devalorisation strikes everywhere including among variable capital, i.e. proletarians. And as Marx emphasized in the Manifesto of the Communist Party: ‘And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand, by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.’

Generalized pauperisation, ever harder conditions of exploitation, epidemics, generalized poisoning of air, water and food, famines, and spread of war… by these means the massive destruction of the proletariat is presently enforced. The bourgeoisie still manages –for the time being- to control this excess labour force, this excess proletariat. It still manages to discipline it, to humble it, put it to work, to convince it to enlist in the unions, to force it to accept its fate, etc., to have die it in camps, and wars… but as we can notice it day after day, the process of valorisation-devalorisation races out of control and calls for new wars, always fiercer, always more destructive. The capitalist ogre commands to his managers to quench its thirst, it keeps demanding more blood; its appetite of cadavers is growing and unappeasable. The capitalist agenda, aiming at boosting a new cycle of growth, calls for the death of excess proletarians and the massive destruction of capitals that cannot valorise. For capital the local wars are not good enough anymore, it is necessary to GENERALIZE them! The very survival of capital is at stake.

As we can see, the conclusion insisted on the ineluctable deepening of the contradiction between human needs and capital’s needs –and war is the peak of these needs- but didn’t broach the question of how the development of this contradiction materializes on the grounds of open confrontation between classes.

Not that this issue is unfamiliar to us: we have always examined it, actually, not without some polemic, but it never led to the publication of a specific material. Therefore the quotation of Pannekoek doesn’t appear to be the conclusion of the process of our reflection, but a mere theoretical view or expression of wishful thinking. Indeed, in the absence of a relevant explanation, the affirmation according to which “the emancipation of the proletariat by itself is the meltdown of capitalism” appears like an abstract formula and a controversial issue. The reader could consequently conclude to a mechanicist conception of the revolutionary process, according to which “capital, initiating its decomposition phase, would inevitably trigger the emergence of a class for itself, of a genuine ‘revolutionary proletariat’, stripped of the contradictions that undermined the class as itself”. (1) This kind of schematic vision was certainly not endorsed by our editorial but we must admit that in the absence of any clarification about the issue of the capitalism meltdown, about the relation between objective conditions and subjective action of the proletariat, confusion was still possible.

Destructured Proletariat and Ideology

Actually this very discussion about the relation between the capital’s catastrophe and its positive destruction by the proletariat is a constant feature of the whole history of our movement, the whole history of the revolutionary proletariat, the whole history of the party. Ever since our group was born, we have approached it through several points of view. Obviously, the kind of short cuts we made in the editorial (regarding this discussion between the observation of the catastrophe and the revolution) is a reflection of the very weakness of our movement and its vanguard expressions. It is all together emblematic of the depth of the catastrophe of life under capital at its every level and the pathetic level of proletarian associationism and of the structuring of the revolutionary centralization at the international level. Far from waning, the contradiction is continually deepening, between the complete inability of the capitalist mode of production to tend to the needs of large masses of human beings and the organization in force of the world proletariat to destroy this society. Nowadays, all revolutionary expressions face a real difficulty in expressing the relation between catastrophe and revolution, between the aggravation of living conditions and the revolutionary destruction of the present society.

Globally, this is the result of a whole series of ideological triumphs of capital that dissuades whatever proletarian associations and struggles carried through with their own perspectives. Here are some significant themes:

But the general difficulty in expressing the present contradictory relation between catastrophe and revolution is also due to capital’s own mechanisms of reproduction, pre-ideological mechanisms, so to speak, or, in other words, the raw material of ideologies.

The “every man for himself” attitude is simultaneously a product of the evolution of the commodity society and a producer of goods, which in turn reinforces the generalized isolation. Thus, if television (and its complements such as video games and others) was a decisive step against any proletarians’ associative life, the persistent and ever-increasing trend towards the subordination of life to the image and the spectacle continues to deepen. The widespread current tendency to substitute (still slightly) real relations for virtual relations is another remarkable qualitative leap in the production of the bourgeois individual, epitome of the “every man for himself”, in other words, “all against all”.

Capitalism separated human beings, turning them into individuals via property and commodity. It subordinated all human relations to representations, which were mediatised by images, and dissolved in the spectacle of a world ridded of its fundamental contradiction. But now, in order to be granted access to the “true” realm of relations between isolated individuals, happy ownership of a series of technological portable artefacts (telephony, computers, audio…) is mandatory. These artefacts –ephemeral and replaceable- permanently and instantaneously connect the separated, evidencing their separated condition (along with connecting the ultra-available employee to his exploiters). These artefacts grant to the multitude of sick and anguished egos an “active status” in the present world, and this “status” is constructed by the “personal choices”, picked from a mass-produced palette, and supposed to give to these relations a sense of humanity.

Our close comrades, our contacts and the groups related to us experience this reality on a daily basis. We suffer in our very flesh this brutal contradiction between the aggravation of all our living conditions and the brutal lack of proletarian associationism, the lack of consciousness and the lack of centralization of our forces. This is why it is so difficult nowadays to express the revolutionary perspective.

And that is true for the discussions that preceded the writing of our editorial in the French review: while aiming at conveying our perspective, they exposed our weaknesses, i.e. those of our class and of all contemporary revolutionary minorities. They revealed that the revolutionary perspective is, as it has always been, an issue that cannot be solved by any party or organization. In the same way they revealed that the problems from which we suffer in our very flesh are not specific to our group, nor will they be solved by the mere will to do so. These discussions urged us, again and again, to look for solutions, not in such or such recipe on what should be done or on what slogans to brandish. That is what all opportunists do, and they end up being subdued by whatever reformist program (and ultimately by socialization and by the cult of individual freedom). On the contrary, we look for solutions in the contradictions that are specific to the capital’s functioning, and in its inability to satisfy the most elementary interests of human being.

If our editorial has mostly focused on the heights –in absolute terms- reached by the deterioration of the proletariat’s survival conditions throughout the world (shanty towns, poisoning, drugs, atomisation, etc.), it seems important to us (specifically in this text, in the light of the development of the class struggles in 2007-2008), to stress on the increase of the brutal deterioration –this time in relative terms- of proletarians’ survival conditions throughout the world, regardless of the levels reached. Thus, the last explosion of prices for oil and foodstuffs was directly translated into an attack against the standard of living – to various degrees indeed- of all proletarians throughout the world, and this attack didn’t even spare the less “underprivileged” strata. This massive and general attack against the proletarians’ standard of living provoked, the first time for long, a reaction of the proletariat directly on a planetary scale, if not in the homogeneity of its expressions (or even less in the acknowledgment of this organic nature by the proletariat itself), at least in the simultaneity in the revolt. The simplification of the contradictions, which the revolutionaries always referred to, made thus a gigantic step forward. We deem it important to dwell on these events, as well as on the ruling class’ endeavour to conceal and keep this process in check.

A Few Elements on the Present Struggles of our Class and on the Way their Organic Essential Nature is Concealed by our Enemies

Unable to veil completely the various reactions of our class throughout the world, the bourgeois media strive to act as the martinet of the capitalist order (with the Marxist-Leninist press, as usual, carrying out the dirty job with great zeal) by having them appear to be totally unrelated, with a completely different nature and origin. Where we see different expressions of a same fundamental proletarian reaction against the attacks of world capital, in their widest meaning, against their survival conditions (exploitation, wages, wars, deportations, repression, social putrefaction…), the media (irrespective of which side they belong to) persist in differentiating them by creating strict separations between what they call:

  1. “Hunger riots” which affect about thirty countries of the so-called Third World, forming, according to them, a highly dangerous belt that surrounds the globe from latitude 30° north to the equator. In that category, the proletariat’s reactions against the crisis in Mexico, in Haiti, in a dozen of countries of Western and Central Africa (e.g. Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), in Egypt, in the Indian peninsula (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh) and finally in Southeast Asia (China, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.), and in Indonesia. These “hunger riots” are portrayed as being specifically due to the perpetuation of the North-South trade unbalances inherited from the colonization, due to the Western Stock Markets speculation over the production of “Third World” countries. It is also portrayed as being due to the destruction of local mixed farming, notably following the WB and IMF so-called neo-colonialist policies, which condition the granting of financial loans to single-crop farming for export products;
  2. Demonstrations “against the high cost of living” and strikes to protest against the reduction of the so-called “purchasing power” (3) (United States, Western and Eastern Europe, some countries of Latin America);
  3. “Suburbs riots” in European countries and some countries of Latin America, portrayed as being the expression of youth’s malaise, especially youngsters of immigrant extraction and/or those left out of “the world of work” (4);
  4. “Terrorist attacks” and revolts against the military and other State and State-like institutions in countries where the world centralization of State terror is enforced through military occupation and/or humanitarian operations (Haiti, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Guinea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and other territories under State of Israel’s terror…) as well as in countries where the central strategy of the bourgeois repression focuses on amalgamating systematically the movement of the proletariat with nationalist and/or Marxist-Leninist organizations (Basque Country in Spain, Colombia, Chechnya, Nepal). (5)

On the grounds of these separations, Social Democracy finds it easy to claim that these problems “with a specific nature and origin” require specific solutions:

  1. International regulation of world economic policies, when dealing with “hunger riots”;
  2. Wage increase (a revised cost of living index) and a governmental policy of price control on vital commodities, housing and energy, when dealing with “demonstrations against the high cost of living”;
  3. Access of young people of immigrant extraction to the world of work, when dealing with “suburbs riots”;
  4. Pacification of the so-called ungovernable zones by means of military, and humanitarian, interventions aiming at restoring a “democratic process” of decision and action.

In every one of theses specific cases, these reformist and humanitarian solutions are put forward as an improvement of the proletariat’s living conditions, while preserving the capitalist system. They are nothing but quarantine lines intending to prevent the expansion of the struggles of our class throughout the world.

Even more so, to make a strict distinction between “riots” (when referring to the proletariat’s reactions in countries of the so-called Third World, or in the suburbs), “demonstrations” and “strikes” (when referring to the proletarians’ reaction in the so-called developed countries) or “terrorist attacks” (when referring to the proletariat’s reactions in the “ungovernable zones” of the world) stands as the first quarantine line against the unification of the proletariat’s struggle in the world.

What about the word “riot”? It is very distinctly and pejoratively connoted by years of Social Democratic propaganda and equated to “the unleashing of the vilest instincts of the human being”, the “archaic and primary” reaction of “the masses”, before the maturation of the “workers’ movement” (i.e. its containment and neutralization by Social Democracy). From the good citizen’s point of view, this word means “uncivilized” or “pre-democratic” struggles. It is systematically used to refer to proletarians’ struggles in the so-called underdeveloped countries, in the Western suburbs, or even to designate workers’ actions seen as a little too “wild”. This clearly upholds the ideology according to which these struggles are completely different from those of the “working class” of the Western countries –an inferior type, in form and ambition-. Thus, these terminological distinctions contribute to the ideology that contends that the pacifist methods imposed by Social Democracy, consisting of demonstrations and pseudo-strikes, are the form of struggle specific to the salaried workers of the so-called developed capitalist countries. Allegedly, these struggles have anything in common with the bursts of anger –“spontaneous, disorganized and with ambiguous purposes”- caused by suburbs “riffraff” or by “idle lumpenproletarians” in the so-called Third World countries. Nor does it have anything in common with those who “organize wildcat strikes and violent actions”, or with the “small extremist groups” that carry out “terrorist” attacks against military, political or economic structures of the State.

In the same way, the labelling of certain reactions of our class as “hunger revolts” and “Third World” suggests that those who are not hungry are not concerned, nor are those who don’t live in the so-called Third World. This is a way of pretending that the capitalist society that produces the most powerful computers, that builds the most fantastic cities and weapons of massive destruction, differs from the one responsible for world starvation and the dwindling of the real wage of all proletarians throughout the world. Yet, if we consider food as an effective satisfaction of human needs, as a matter of fact all proletarians under the capitalist mode of production are “hungry” for real, human, food. With the spread of junk food –emptied of all essential trace element, devitaminized, toxic, etc.- all the proletarians are, in substance, “starved” by capital, as they are increasingly prone to serious nutritional deficiencies all around the world, without any exception and especially not in the so-called developed countries, where fast food rules supreme, i.e. “the food whose sole purpose is to regenerate labour force in the fastest possible way”. This is another aspect of the ever more blatant inability of capital to feed mankind effectively, anywhere on this planet.

Finally, and this point relates to the two first ones, there is a whole terminology, with terms such as “under-developed”, “developing”, “emerging” countries or “Third World”, that aims at depicting these countries as being less capitalistic, when actually famines are the purest product of capitalism. By concealing the reasons one conceals the solutions: the destruction of capitalism. By particularizing the starvation problem –or the problems of the so-called Third World in general- one veils the spread of the capitalist attack against the proletariat, the homogenisation of proletarians’ living conditions on an international scale, and obviously one also conceals the common proletarian nature of the attacks against capital and the State that are taking place before our eyes.

The use of this whole terminology is not neutral. It has two concomitant purposes: the liquidation of the general character of the proletariat’s reactions and of their revolutionary perspective against a hostile global system.

These clichés conveyed painstakingly by the bourgeois media don’t survive our analysis of these different movements of struggle of the proletariat all over the world. Even through the bourgeois information filter, it is not difficult to grasp that:

  1. “Hunger riots” in the so-called under-developed countries are also marked by strikes of salaried employees and that demonstrations targeted, as everywhere else, the State structures that barred their way, including the international humanitarian forces that support the local governments policies of repression and law and order enforcement.
  2. “Demonstrations and strikes against the high cost of living” by proletarians in European countries carried on, on a number of occasions, beyond the level of pacifist demonstrations and strikes organized by Social Democracy. During these struggles, proletarians resorted to various direct actions and spontaneous sabotages against production, breaking with the democratic procedures of social dialogue (e.g. Spanish fishermen blocked up harbours, truck drivers blockaded highways in France, in Spain, etc.);
  3. Suburbs “rioters”, far from only attacking their neighbours’ cars and bus shelters, as reported by the bourgeois media, actually attacked a great number of targets responsible, on a daily basis, for the “big racket of capital” upon our lives. Thus, they showed that the objectives of their struggle are much clearer than the bunch of Leninists claim they are, who see these “rioters” as modern “lumpenproletarians”. They also showed that their struggle is straightforwardly directed against the capital’s State and all its branches, against wage labour, and value: police stations, town halls, public services, law courts, schools, party offices –regardless of their creed-, associations offices, French Electricity and Gas Board agencies [EDF-GDF], electric transformers, banks and cash dispensers, real estate agencies, temping agencies, jobcentres [ANPE], post offices, car dealers, shopping centres, fast food, sports and arts centres, tourist information centres, agencies, media’s vehicles and journalists, etc.
  4. “Ungovernable zones” are actually social powder kegs, and this has been true for years. Behind the veil of religious, nationalist or inter-ethnic conflicts (6), the media hide a very tense social reality where working conditions, wages and strong unemployment rate have provoked, and continue to do so, important strikes and demonstrations of proletarians, violently repressed by the current governments. The exacerbation of social tensions in these regions have sometimes generated pre-insurrectionary situations where proletarians overtly confronted all the State forces, forcing international forces (humanitarian and/or military ones) to intervene in order to try to restore social order.

Finally, we must point out that some situations of struggle are so hard to relate with any of these patterns that the media fail to shove them into a precise category and consider them as “uncategorizable”, like the struggles that have been unfolding for several years in Haiti, Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, etc. According to the bourgeois categories, it is not a matter of “under-developed” countries or countries in a declared state of war. These struggles feature near-insurrectionary aspects that are way beyond the framework of wage struggles and suburban “riots”. Moreover they root themselves in the long-term, due to their durability or recurrent flare ups, and this must be highlighted in a period of brutal but ephemeral explosions of social unrest such as the present. These examples also reveal that the radicalisation and the very development of the struggles make their falsification –resorting to the rigid above-mentioned categories- more difficult.

The Proletarian Struggles are One and the Same Struggle

The arduous context of present times makes it difficult for the proletarian movement to express the relation between catastrophe and revolution, between the aggravation of the conditions of life and the revolutionary destruction of the current society. In this context, it is evocative that a proletarian group such as “Echanges et Mouvement” relays, in some measure, the separations we mentioned above. This group did an excellent job on “the explosive belt” in the issue No.124 of their publication “Echanges” (Spring 2008) – to which we have widely referred. However, in the same issue, there is an article whose title is “European Union – struggle for improved wages and abolition of wage labour”. While we deem important to highlight the relation between the struggles for better wages and the abolition of wage labour, it is clear that our comrades from that group have not come to the same conclusions as in their article on the “explosive belt”. Indeed, in spite of the article referring to the troubles originating in social misery and mentioning “beyond all particularities, a sort of global movement against a system…”, the article of “Echanges” indicates nowhere that this global movement against capitalism aims at its destruction, that the proletarians struggle concomitantly for better wages and for the abolition of wage labour and the stranglehold of commodity. In other words, if the article relevantly refers to the struggle against the loss of so-called “purchasing power” in Europe as a struggle for the abolition of wage labour, it misses the point about the social misery troubles, as if they were distinct from the struggles for the abolition of wage labour. Maybe the articles were not written by the same authors, and maybe our comrades from “Echanges” clearly identify these struggles as being directed against wage labour, but it’s profoundly regrettable that they attribute this aim to the European struggles alone. In spite of their real efforts to report and analyse the ongoing struggles, this equivocation plays into the game of those endeavouring to divide the proletariat, the game of the Social Democratic myths of Progress, as if Europe stood closer to the struggle to terminate capitalism. This view implies that proletarians whose loss of “purchasing power” does not plunge them straight into starvation would find it easier to struggle against the abolition of wage labour. In such a statement, the absurdity of this view appears more than obvious. According to it, in a country such as Mexico, where the proletariat has massively taken to the streets to protest against the price of the tortilla, and where the whole of the proletariat is concerned, some struggle for the abolition of wage labour (those who are not hungry?) and some don’t!

In view of the importance of this question, let us examine this statement of “Echanges et Mouvement”: “It is in the struggle against the wage labour social relations, against wage labour itself, that the proletariat will achieve emancipation, that it will cease to be a class as itself (a class for capital) and become a class for itself. This is the process that we must emphasize even though in Europe there is a significant difference compared to the characteristics of the struggle in the so-called ‘emerging’ countries.” As we see, it is impossible to make out what sort of distinction the comrades tried to establish. Furthermore, they added in a note: “When Marx says ‘the proletariat is revolutionary or it is nothing’ this means the individualized, scattered, proletariat is nothing but a class as itself. The struggle and solidarity of the class for itself makes it the product of a process that goes beyond the mere class antagonism.

At the heart of the question, we affirm on the contrary, with no ambiguity, that all struggles have a common origin and therefore a common goal, that is to say they are directed against the same target, the growing misery to which we are exposed by the present society. The quibbling about “class as itself” and “class for itself” that “Echanges” added clarifies nothing about this supposed distinction and only contributes to the confusion, by making it out to be a dualist opposition between struggles directed against wage labour social relations and struggles that aren’t! (This opposition is typical of the Social Democracy and we really didn’t expect our comrades of “Echanges et Mouvement” to fall for it). Or else, do our comrades suggest that such distinction is a matter of consciousness, and by doing so adhere to the Social Democratic Leninist caricature? Even then, do they really believe that the proletariat in Europe displays a higher degree of consciousness, or are any closer to becoming a “class for itself”?

As far as we’re concerned, let us be clear: there are no two distinct struggles. Any struggle against the increase of proletarian misery is simultaneously a struggle against the bourgeois society, no matter that the proletarians carrying on these struggles are aware of that or not, or, in other words, regardless of the different levels of consciousness that animate the struggles. We believe that our comrades from “Echange et Mouvement” could hardly produce a single argument to vindicate the so-called “very different characteristics” of the struggle in Europe.

The only relevant distinction is precisely not to be found in the distinction between countries, or between Europe and the rest of the world, but rather between different sectors of every country’s proletariat. On one hand, the sectors of the proletariat that are most subject to coercion from parties, trade-unions and other State apparatuses; and on the other hand, those sectors less integrated, such as the jobless, the poor suburbs dwellers, the so-called marginalized, the lumpenproletariat, the immigrants, the “landless peasants”. True, as far as riots are concerned, the so-called “third-world” comes more easily to mind than Europe, where we are more accustomed to workers social protests channelled by stoppages of work and peaceful demonstrations. It is also true that nowadays, in Europe, the very term “riot” only seems to be associated with suburbs dwellers, with the marginalized and the “excluded”. That is the real difference: the quarantine lines that the bourgeoisie endeavours to impose everywhere in order to divide the proletariat. On one hand, the politically correct protests, the legal stoppages of work, the flock of sheep-like marches and pseudo-protests; on the other hand, the “riots” from uncontrolled elements. All sectors of Social Democracy, but in particular the Marxist-Leninists, go to great lengths to explain that “real proletarians” should not be lured by the “suburbs scum” or the “lumpenproletariat”, and that “real proletarians” should join the trade-unions.

However, in spite of all the efforts of Social Democracy aiming at dividing the proletariat, the media find it harder and harder to conceal the generalized character of the price rise of foodstuffs. The worldwide proletariat is confronted with a dramatic lowering of relative wage as well as their real wage, typically denominated “a lowering of the purchasing power” by Social Democracy – as we pointed out in a previous note. We deem it crucial to be perfectly clear on this question: this capitalist attack is a directly worldwide phenomenon, an obvious concretisation of the “capitalist progress”. It is not different North or South, East or West. It is not due, here to the “lack of progress”, there to “the subprime crisis”, and elsewhere to “corruption”. It is fundamental expression of the necessity of worldwide bourgeois to hold in check the downward trend of the profit rate by increasing the exploitation rate on an international scale.

We have always affirmed it: never will commodity “unstarve” humanity. Never will the capitalist society solve the problems of the human beings, regardless of the governing bourgeois fraction, protectionist or neoliberal, “right-wing” or “left-wing”. Nowhere on this planet will the merchant society prevent hunger, wars, and the progressive destruction of the planet. On the contrary, the merchant society appears ever more clearly as the society exhausting Earth’s resources and condemning to exclusion, famine and death a growing number of proletarians. The rising frequency of famines is indeed a typical capitalist phenomenon (and not pre-capitalist!) that the merchant society will never be able to avert. The price rise of energy and staple goods is merely the epiphenomenon of a more global contradiction between capital and human species, or even, between the bourgeois society and the Earth (that is, all life forms on this planet and all vital elements such as water, air, land…).

“Hunger riots” are struggles of the proletariat!

All over the world the contradiction is ever more striking between the human needs and the needs of Capital and profit. The grim merry-go-round of stock exchanges and markets, the cynical and murderous timetables of adjustment structural plans, all this means always more misery, deprivation, daily and generalized poisoning for our class. The capital’s catastrophe is taking up speed and it’s always our class that picks up the tab!

Capital has left us bare in order to force us to work

When it doesn’t need our labour force anymore, we are left to die

Capital kills and doesn’t have anything else to offer

But the proletariat doesn’t take the increasing brutality of these attacks against its survival conditions without reacting. These last weeks, in dozens of countries all over the world, our class took to the streets, repossessing whatever food was necessary not to starve outright.

Faced with this human reaction, Social Democracy deplores lootings and revolts “without prospects”. In the sake of the planet’s salvation it advocates austerity, abnegation and submission. Denouncing this or that “pernicious effect of the system”, brandishing the mystification of “world overpopulation”, it keeps feeding us with its wild imaginings, promising reforms supposed to regulate profit and to humanize the capitalist barbarity.

Today, proletarians are being hammered all over the world by a generalized attack against their “purchasing power”. Yet, resignation through Social Democratic acceptance of the “lesser evil” globally still prevails today: the worst is and will always be elsewhere, farther, in the “third world”, among “the poorest”, “the most exploited”...

The bourgeoisie is still free to isolate our struggles and restore its social peace by murdering with complete impunity our class brothers on strike for their most elementary needs. And all this requires the support of these useful idiots, these docile citizens who vote and recycle their household waste, these sloppy spectators sitting before their television and who might shed some tears over “violence and hunger in the world” between two elections or sports results.

Dying or struggling, there is no other alternative for the proletariat

Let’s support our struggling class brothers, let’s fight everywhere against exploitation

Hunger riots and suburbs riots... these struggles are ours

Our enemy is everywhere the same

This system is in crisis? May it die!

Internationalist Communist Group - April 2008
BP 33 - Saint-Gilles (BRU) 3 - 1060 Brussels - Belgium (important: don’t mention the group’s name)
e-mail: info@gci-icg.org - our press on internet: http://gci-icg.org

Comrades, this leaflet is an expression of our struggling class, copy it, and spread it!

Capital or Earth

Contrary to what our enemies say, the general price increase of the staple products is not due to speculation. (7) Speculation is only the mechanism that accompanies and intensifies the general trend of price increase for food products, but in no way does it explain such increase. On the contrary, it is the general increase of the value of such products that makes speculation possible and profitable, and that generates an excessive increase of the prices, beyond their actual value. Speculation is always based on goods whose unitary value tends to increase, on goods whose demand predictably will exceed supply. Nobody would be so dumb as to speculate on computers or cell phones, since their unitary values keep decreasing. Indeed, the production techniques of computers and cell phones are constantly improving, so is the productivity of labour in those sectors, which entails both a reduction of the price of such goods (due to the lower quantity of work incorporated, hence a lower exchange value) and a rise in their availability on the markets (the lowering of the value is compensated by a larger volume of production). We have, therefore, a growing supply of computers whose performance is always higher and whose price is always diminishing. The capitalist that would try and speculate by hoarding devaluating goods would be either mad or suicidal, but would for sure go bankrupt.

Obviously, capitalists tend to speculate on goods which capital cannot produce in unlimited supply, such as oil. Everyone knows that the worldwide oil reserves are dwindling and that every new barrel extracted is requiring more and more work. This situation inevitably generates an increase of the price of oil, contrary to that of computers and cell phones. There is no need to be a financial expert to realize that this trend is going to be continuous, (regardless of some temporary drops due to State policies) and that speculation on oil is very promising. Speculation is, let us remind it, a “natural” expression of the life of capital, when circulating and reproducing itself. But even if it can indeed momentarily exaggerate the upward trend of prices, there will always be, in mid or long-term, a correction, that is, a new drop. That is what is happening today with oil, and partially with other natural resource related-goods, at the moment of concluding this article. But it is crucial to distinguish a market-related phenomenon from the fundamental determination of the value of goods, on the long run. (8) Speculation is therefore not fundamentally the source of the upward trend of price, and would actually be ineffective if the intrinsic value of the goods didn’t rise as well. In other words, it is definitely the real limits imposed to oil production and extraction, and the acknowledged fact of its ultimate depletion that are responsible for the increase of its value and invite speculation on this good.

With regard to the price rise of agricultural goods, we believe that speculation only amplifies the problem, but is not its original cause –in the same way as it happens with oil. If capitalists speculate on agricultural goods it is because they are well aware that their prices tend to rise, all the more because the supply is not always sufficient to satisfy the growing demand for such goods. The fundamental origin of the price rise of agricultural goods is actually, in the same way as it happens with oil, an increase of their value, which is a little more intricate to analyse than the value of oil. A comprehensive explanation is more than this text aims at. But we believe that, beyond appearances, the reasons are fundamentally similar.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the rise in price and value of foodstuffs contradicts the general trend towards a reduction of the unitary value of goods, due to the ever-increasing productivity of labour. It is true that the incorporated technology keeps reducing the living labour immediately necessary to transform raw material into finished articles, and should therefore –theoretically- reduce their unitary value. But we must not forget that the production of goods also requires raw materials such as earth, water or oil, which cannot be produced at will –their quantity is limited and they have been taken over by capital. We often ignore the important part of the rent of land in determining the value of foodstuffs (the price of land has significantly increased these last years) and we also tend to forget that the dwindling of drinkable water reserves and the impoverishment and erosion of the land (due to intensified exploitation by capital) weaken land productivity, which invariably increases the amount of work necessary to the production of foodstuffs, and hence the value of such goods.

In the text entitled “Value, Price and Profit”, Marx clearly identified the natural conditions of labour and the state of the socially productive labour force as being the two main and inseparable elements on which the productivity of labour depends, and hence the value of the produced goods:

If the respective quantities of labour necessary for the production of the respective commodities remained constant, their relative values also would be constant. But such is not the case. The quantity of labour necessary for the production of a commodity changes continuously with the changes in the productive powers of labour (...). If, for example, in the progress of population it should become necessary to cultivate less fertile soils, the same amount of produce would be only attainable by a greater amount of labour spent, and the value of agricultural produce would consequently rise. On the other hand, if, with the modern means of production, a single spinner converts into yarn, during one working day, many thousand times the amount of cotton which he could have spun during the same time with the spinning wheel, it is evident that every single pound of cotton will absorb many thousand times less of spinning labour than it did before, and consequently, the value added by spinning to every single pound of cotton will be a thousand times less than before. The value of yarn will sink accordingly.” (9)

Marx concludes: “(…) the productive powers of labour must principally depend:
Firstly. Upon the natural conditions of labour, such as fertility of soil, mines, and so forth.
Secondly. Upon the progressive improvement of the social powers of labour, such as are derived from production on a grand scale, concentration of capital and combination of labour, subdivision of labour, machinery, improved methods, appliance of chemical and other natural agencies, shortening of time and space by means of communication and transport, and every other contrivance by which science presses natural agencies into the service of labour (…).”

Under the capitalist mode of production, it clearly appears that the development of the second element (the social powers of labour) tend, inescapably, to the destruction of the first (the natural conditions of labour). Indeed, the extraordinary development of the capitalist social powers of labour reached such heights nowadays that cultivable land is becoming rarer and rarer, as are oil, drinkable water, and all other “natural resources”, and, as a result, the natural labour conditions are made less and less favourable to an increase of the productive powers of labour. In other words, this means that the systematic increase of the productive powers of labour of capital finds itself hindered, checked by the natural conditions of labour. In spite of the means that capital resorts to –by means of science, as Marx said- in order to supersede these natural conditions, they end up imposing themselves sooner or later. In spite of capital claiming its ability to submit all natural conditions to valorisation, the production conditions remain irretrievably bound to the earth –everything today is a blatant and catastrophic demonstration of it. The tangible result of this separation between human activity and nature is that capital is actually developing human productive activity as a force that is hostile, antagonistic and destructive to Earth. On the contrary, the communist revolution affirms itself as the reconciliation of human activity with Earth.

Indeed, agricultural exploitation, organised according to the immediate needs of capitalist valorisation, demands an ever-increasing volume of work, in order to make the land fertile, and implies therefore a price rise of agricultural products. Furthermore, the permanent destruction of cultivable land by capital (desertification, urbanisation, communications…) leads to a rarefaction of land. (10) Of course, every ton of grain, rice, potatoes, vegetables, may well contain less incorporated labour through the various “technical” operations, from sowing to display on the supermarket shelves, but, on the other hand, it undeniably contains an ever-growing part of work made necessary by the preparation of land (to make it cultivable) and for the obtaining of resources indispensable to production and distribution (oil, water…). In addition, due to the growing rarefaction of cultivable land, water, oil and other natural resources, the price paid for the use of such resources –the rent- is always on the rise.

As a matter of fact, the price rise for all products derived from land (such as the mineral resources or those extracted from the seas) in 2007 until mid-2008 is fundamentally due to the same reasons that led to the oil price rise. In each ton of rice, grain, meat, wool… there is a growing percentage of value that derives from the rent of land and to the raw stuff that is necessary to its production, compared to the volume of work immediately necessary to its production. (11)

In reality, capital has since decades tried its best to check this inexorable trend towards foodstuffs price rise. As a matter of fact, capital produces “food” that contains less and less natural components, less and less “land”. Amadeo Bordiga was right when he stated, right in the face of all the idiots in awe of modern science and technology, that our historical era will be known in the future as “the age of junk”. This trend generates supermarket junk food, fast foods, and is also responsible for the deliberately short lifespan of every single device produced under the dictatorship of profit. (12)

It is important to emphasize that, for capital, the value reduction of everything that is used for the feeding of the proletariat is also a way of increasing the exploitation rate and hence, profit. If capital could feed proletarians exclusively with cell phones and other plastic devices (some of which would be labelled “hamburgers”, “chickens”, “salmons”…) that incorporate less and less labour and “land”, it would gladly do so! Also, regarding the rarefaction and increase in value of natural goods, it is obvious that it is in capital’s interest to produce consumer goods, destined to the proletarians, that require less and less of these natural goods. Evidently, a supermarket “chicken”, insipid lump of gelatine clung to a few bones, which kept the same name as a remotely related bird only for a question of profit, contains a lot less human labour, but also “land” (in terms of land surface, and biomass) than a farm chicken, or to a greater extent, a chicken such as our grand-parents used to eat. In the same way, its production requires a lot less time (a quarter to a tenth), depending on profitability needs (the pace of rotation of capital). This is the sort of value decrease that, in foodstuffs and more generally in everything destined to proletarian consumption, has produced, for the last decades, the greatest increase in the exploitation rate (surplus value divided by variable capital) in the history of humanity. Due to this huge swindle, a sleight-of-hands aimed at an accelerated and permanent substitution of goods whose composition was still vaguely known by ersatz replacements, always poorer, more synthetic and toxic, profitability conditions went through the roof and offered capital a period of extraordinary development.

As a matter of fact, in a more general way, the “junk food” is merely a moment in the long and painful general historical process of dispossession of the land that the human being has invariably been subject to from the very beginning of the development of capital. This general process consists in depriving the proletarians from the use of the land and in its privative appropriation by capital. It is expressed through:

The whole development of capital is marked by the hellish contradiction with the nourishing earth, whose animals in general and the human being in particular are a constitutive element. From an ideological point of view, capital enforces true “civilization” as total submission of the countryside to the cities, superiority of “progress” against barbarity, of cement against earth, of industry against agriculture and rearing. (13) Endless economic growth is the supreme ideology of capital, which claims to be therefore able to achieve total domination over the Earth.

The whole history of bourgeois society is the history of the separation of the human being from the land (that is still under way nowadays) and of the bourgeois claim of prevalence over the natural relation between Earth and Man as part of Earth and belonging to it. If this process still goes on nowadays, it is clear that total separation of Man and Earth is impossible. Although capital claims to be able to triumph over all limitations, its actual capacity –that is to say, regardless of its wish- is limited.

It is true that proletarians end up “feeding” on cell phones and other crappy gadgets – an alienated satisfaction of alienated needs. It is also true that it generates illusions about the durability of the current world, especially if the proletarians keep being captivated by the ever-obsolete, ever renewed catalogue of the same old junk, or if they get to the point of recycling their garbage (the belief in the positive impact on the planet of this unsalaried labour only helps perpetuate this system that precisely destroys the planet) or go voting… But everything has a limit, and capital’s true limit is the proletariat, that does not seem to agree on feeding on cell phones and fast food, and insists on feeding on rice, grain, meat, manioc, fish… all the more since it is starting to take to the streets to shout this out loud.

Capitalism will never be able to solve the problem of human feeding; it is on the contrary continually aggravating it, and more globally, threatening the very survival of the human species (and other life forms) on Earth. The contradiction between capital and the survival of all living species is sharpening and will continue to do so.

Since capital has, for centuries, dispossessed Man from the benefits of the land, the struggle against capitalism has always been, fundamentally, a struggle to resist the separation from the land. During centuries Social Democracy, obstinate worshipper of the myth of civilization, progress and science, has looked down on the struggle of the rural proletariat to oppose this separation. Social Democracy even theorized this racist ideology by considering the urban industry worker more adequate to the revolutionary struggle than his countryside brother. But in all major proletarian insurrections, there is a powerful trend not only towards proletarian unification, but also towards the connection of all most fundamental claims of the anti-capitalist struggle –such as the abolition of private property- to the land issue. As a matter of fact, urban proletarians and rural proletarians alike are well aware that their struggle is intrinsically bound to the land issue, (14) all the more because, first of all, that is what their feeding depends on. All major revolutionary struggles of the XIXth and XXth century (Mexico, Russia, Spain…) have equated the destruction of the bourgeois State, of capitalism, to the human need of repossessing the land.

Nowadays, proletarian reaction throughout the world is also fundamentally a struggle of humanity to repossess the land against the dictatorship of capital. The awareness of the protagonists notwithstanding, it is a revolutionary struggle that has to assume itself as such: by asserting the necessity of a social revolution, of the abolition of private property of the production means, of the reunification of the human species with the Earth. We are convinced that as this struggle exacerbates, the historical struggle of humanity against the historical separation from the land also gain in importance.

We can already witness, today, that in certain struggles, the proletarians are starting to change the way they consider this historical resistance and are starting to give more credit to the struggles of the “native”, “indigenous” or “aborigine” peoples (that the bourgeois like to label “first nations”) against capitalism and State. This evolution is very important in the process that must lead to the unification of the struggles of the proletariat against capital. As an example, under the influence of the expansion of uprising movements, the Mapuche Indians show an increasing trend to tie their struggle to the struggles of other proletarians that confront the State in a similar way.

Homogenisation, Unification, Associationism

The current situation of capital threatens everything that relates to the mere survival, since the worldwide proletariat faces a brutal decreasing of its salary, both relative and real, and consequently it faces a rising exploitation. The proletarian struggles against that attack are definitely the expression of the contradiction between capital and humanity, between the dictatorship of profit and life on Earth. All these struggles are a rebellion against capital, against the rising exploitation that in turn brings a price rise for all consumer goods destined to the proletariat.

Let’s go back to the basics: the qualitative and quantitative assault against the survival of our species has no cause exterior to capital and its logic. The greatest progress of capital can only be an aggravation of this situation, the exacerbation of the contradiction between capital and humanity, between the bourgeois society and the Earth. For capital, the Earth itself is no longer sufficient: its needs in terms of valorisation and the brutality, with which they are enforced, in too small a place for its unquenchable appetite, are choking life itself, in a disaster whose amplitude or acceleration we are not fully aware of yet.

Today, there is no need to be a communist to affirm that without changes in this society, we are heading straight to the wall. But there are still very few people who state that if capitalism is not destroyed, capitalism will destroy the human species. Only communists affirm the imperative necessity of a dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour as an indispensable prerequisite for the survival of the human species.

In spite of the proletariat finding it difficult to affirm its class project, in great part due to the exacerbation of individualism in the bourgeois society, we must point out that our class has already reacted to the generalized price rise of first necessity goods in a much more unified way than it is aware of. Indeed, the current attacks of capital have generated a wave of proletarian struggles that involves nearly every country in the planet. This clearly shows that the catastrophe of the bourgeois society –that keeps exacerbating and homogenising the sufferings of the proletariat- is a blatant reminder of the essential unity of the proletariat and can only favour the trend towards the unification of its struggles.

It is obvious that, from our point of view, the price rise of foodstuffs produces an acceleration of this trend. Although we cannot prove this acceleration in a “scientific” way and although this trend is not apparent at first sight –all the more to the eyes of the atomized citizen- the unfolding of the class struggles in 2007/2008 seems to us the most tangible expression of this unification process. Our own international debate since our last publications came out has actually been strikingly clarified by the realities of the class struggle. Although the reconstitution of the proletariat as a worldwide class would be too optimistic a conclusion, it is undeniable that this historical process is starting to take shape.

This trend towards the unification of the struggles of our class is something that the bourgeoisie, obviously, seeks to cover up at all costs. As we have already emphasized many times in this text, the bourgeoisie is eager to conceal the fundamentally proletarian nature of these struggles by categorizing them with a variety of labels: suburban riots, hunger riots of Third-World inhabitants, ethnic/religious conflicts, wage strikes, liberation struggles of oppressed peoples, etc. Of course, these dividing ideologies are not the one and only reason why proletarians fail to mutually acknowledge their respective struggles. It is obvious that the objective conditions of life of the proletariat affect this non-acknowledgement. If one of the aspects of the catastrophic reality of capital that we emphasized in our editorial in the French review was indeed the growing number of shantytowns and bleak suburban areas, we need to stress that the cramming of proletarians in ghettos, and the various methods used to prevent them to get out (police checks, scarcity of public transport, etc.) help fortifying the ideology according to which, in the eyes of the rest of the proletariat, those who live in the suburbs are nothing but scum, a sub-proletariat, a lumpenproletariat. Urbanism is the organization of space according to the needs of capital, to contain and repress the proletariat. This sneaky policing appears to be an objective reality; it “naturalizes” the separations and is, among the proletarians, a significant element in this subjective and mutual non-acknowledgement of belonging to one and the same class. Regarding these surplus proletarians that live in the suburbs, their isolation and feeling of being left behind may generate, contradictorily, mechanisms of communitarian withdrawal (religious or nationalist – in favour of their original country) and/or of self-destruction (violence between proletarians, mind-numbing use of drugs, (15) etc.), and, at the same time, a generalized opposition to the system, expressed by a lack of illusions concerning its promises of reform. These trends may make it more difficult for these proletarians to express their solidarity with the salaried proletarians in their struggle against work, because the latter embody a society from which they are excluded.

It is obvious that the separations that are produced directly by the bourgeois urbanism policies also take part in the current division among the proletarian ranks and constitute, side by side with the ideological separations put forward by the Social Democracy, a cordon sanitaire that has a physical and straightforward material existence that stands in the way of the affirmation of the essential unity of the proletariat. In all these aspects of the life under the capitalist regime the bourgeoisie develops continuously a whole arsenal of apparatuses, structures and mechanisms –ideological or directly material- aimed at preventing, hindering or repressing the process of unification of the struggle, depending on its level of advancement. All these means are implemented with the fundamental objective of protecting the capitalist order against the attacks of its gravedigger, the proletariat.

Those ideologies, according to which the proletarians have distinct and irreconcilable interests, are still considerably strong nowadays and still hinder the mutual acknowledgement by the proletarians of the nature of their respective condition and of their respective struggles. But fundamentally, no bourgeois apparatus will ever be able to change the fact that every proletarian struggle contains –and, we emphasize, to a certain extent, expresses- the totality and unity of the project that makes the proletariat “the first exploited and revolutionary class in human history”. (16)

For us, the ongoing unification of the proletarian struggles, as a matter of fact, originates directly from the deepening of the capitalist catastrophe and is not in the slightest the product of the action or will of whatever party or revolutionary minority. (17) As we mentioned before concerning the price of foodstuffs, the brutal capitalist attacks and the degradation of the survival conditions that ensue are taking a global dimension that are pushing towards a greater homogeneity of our class reactions, in terms of timing, form and content. This is a major feature of the catastrophic nature of capital: it digs its own grave, by forcing its executioner to an ever more drastic reaction. It contributes steadily to the unification of the proletarian struggles on a planetary level. Through the satisfaction of its voracious appetite of profit and valorisation, capital simultaneously and continuously threatens to discredit the ideological or material separations painstakingly enforced among the proletarians to allow their exploitation. It is clear that the bourgeoisie will find it harder and harder, with the aggravation of the capitalist catastrophe and the expansion of the struggles, to spread and maintain discord among our ranks, because the objective differences in the way the proletarians are treated –material bases that contribute to the division and lack of self-consciousness of our class- tend to fade out. As we have stressed in the editorial of our French review, the bourgeoisie seems aware that it will be facing an increasingly unified proletariat, and it is doing its best to deal with it.

As Marx already emphasized in “Class Struggles in France”, it is indeed during the struggles against the capitalist attacks to which it is submitted that the proletariat loses its illusions: basically, he states that every proletarian defeat is simultaneously a victory inasmuch as in the course of the struggle, the bourgeois schemes keep being exposed. Only the expansion of the struggles gives the proletariat the strength to break away, every time more sharply, with the separations enforced by the bourgeoisie. This, we insist, is not initially a question of consciousness, or party: it is the aggravation of the capitalist crisis that forces the proletariat to fight and, in this process, to confront the class antagonism with an increasingly radical way. The unfolding of the capitalist catastrophe can only make clear and clearer the polarisation of society into two distinct sides: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

However, it is obvious that nowadays the simultaneity, the amplitude and the clarity of the proletarian reaction cruelly contrast with the lack of awareness regarding the revolutionary social project, in other words, communism. It also contrasts with the lack of mutual acknowledgement of those struggles as originating, on a worldwide scale, from one and the same class. Nor does the proletariat realize the necessity of a stronger organization against our enemy. If the organic nature of the proletariat is indeed more obvious than ever, as witnessed by the generalization of the austerity policies to which it is subjected, if the focal points of the struggle and its targets are indeed an expression of our worldwide interest, the real centralization processes remain rare and isolated. The lack of associationism, of programmatic statements, of continuity, of international centralization, tightly linked to the destruction of the social bondage that we referred to earlier in the text, keeps being the greatest gap of the proletariat in its ability to carry on with the destruction of this criminal society.

From an historical point of view, our class is in a much different state than it was, for instance, in the decades prior to the revolutionary wave of the years 1917-1921. As a matter of fact, those days had seen the development of a wave of proletarian associationism, in which the classist press acted as collective organizer for millions of proletarians that assumed their condition and claimed on a worldwide scale the necessity of destroying the global capitalist society. Like we said above to stress our antagonism against the “separation theories”, it would be wrong to take that historical reference as an absolute criterion, and profess, wrapped up in the status of “professional revolutionary” that “there is no consciousness”, that “there is no organization”, that “there is no party”… as if we could draw from the past some formal scheme to which the class struggle should conform! Beyond the criticism of these Leninism-tainted caricatures, widely promoted by the whole self-proclaimed “radical” Social Democracy, we must put this absence of organisation and class consciousness into perspective:

The analysis of this situation with its positive and negative aspects is for us of the utmost importance: if, on one hand, the generalization of the struggles, their amplitude, their strength and our combativeness are a certainty for the immediate future, our ability to triumph on a worldwide scale is not guaranteed. The lack of class consciousness (that is to say, of community of interest and aim) facilitates the distortions and falsifications against our class struggle (and hence its isolation, essential step to achieve impunity in repression) and opens the door to the loss of autonomy of the movement, to its loss of substance by allying with bourgeois factions, until the class struggle is turned into a inter-bourgeois clash. Whether we manage, or not, to go beyond this contradiction between the amplitude of the proletarian reaction and the lack of self-aware worldwide associationism will be, in our opinion, a critical factor in the solution –revolutionary or counterrevolutionary- to the global social contradiction. In addition, at a time where the proportion of revolutionary minorities compared to the existent movement of the proletariat is smaller than ever, the struggle against the current of those minorities is, concurrently, more decisive than ever.

Let us single out an example among the current world events and reaffirm the communist perspective. It is unquestionably true that the Pentagon associated to other imperialist forces is acting against the Bolivian and Venezuelan governments, as the bourgeois nationalist leftists are claiming. However, considering the global crisis of the bourgeois system and its attacks against the proletariat, and facing the proletarian struggle, the action of the Pentagon coincides integrally and fundamentally with the actions of all governments and leftists of the world, aimed at neutralizing the current proletarian struggle against the social system by trying to enlist the proletariat under bourgeois banners. In fact, the Pentagon and the self-proclaimed anti-imperialist governments act jointly in the defence of the same class interest: to eclipse the struggle that is unfolding throughout the world against the price rise of basic commodities and to repolarise the whole society according to the intergovernmental contradictions, on one side the bourgeois nationalist governments of Latin America and on the other the USA.

Against this, the revolutionary action must affirm, as always:

No solidarity with whatever government or State!

They are all enemies of the proletarian struggle!

Let’s keep up the fight against the deterioration of our survival conditions!

Death to capitalism, long live the social revolution!

It is certainly not by accepting the polarizations between the different bourgeois States and by turning into cannon fodder that we, proletarians, will eat better, breath better… live better. On the contrary, we will do so by fighting against capitalism and all its States, by constituting ourselves as a class, as a party, by enforcing our worldwide revolutionary interest.

Fight or die!

No alternative for the proletariat!

Our enemy, capital, is one and the same throughout the whole world!

Notes

  This involuntary ambiguousness against the mechanicist conceptions in our editorial was still accentuated by the nearly systematic use of the expression “capitalistic decomposition” instead of “deterioration of the contradictions” that we usually use to point out that we don’t expect capital to fall apart before our eyes, but rather, that in the absence of quantitative and qualitative development of the proletarian struggle, the very real exacerbation of the contradiction between capital’s needs and human needs will unfold to the detriment of our class: massacres, wars, atomisation, exploitation, starvation, cops, prison, control, generalized poisoning… We mean to affirm, as revolutionaries always did, that the catastrophe is not only the capital’s future but also all its past and its present. Moments of acceleration of this catastrophe are favourable moments to point out the only real alternative, i.e. between catastrophe and revolution. It doesn’t mean the end of class struggle (as in the mechanicist meaning of “decomposition”) but on the contrary the moment where it really starts to be decisive.
  Some comrades point out that “this icing on the cake” is not something new and that it will undoubtedly be served to us in the future. That is true, but it is also true that all innovations are nothing but always more of the same, and that “progress” is nothing but a modernized version of the worthless baubles that the colonizers offered to the natives in return for the liquidation of their life.
  The expression “purchasing power”, as a reference to real wage, i.e. the wage expressed in goods it allows to buy, is not innocent. It is highly connoted and speaks for itself about how the state and in particular Social Democracy claims that the measurement of “power” of our class boils down to how full supermarket trolley is. If the value of the real wage at any given moment always and effectively expresses a balance of forces between the classes, a level of class struggle, on the contrary the purchasing of commodities (and the prerequisite selling of our labour force) in itself will never be the expression of a “conquest” or a “power”, but rather the expression of our enslavement.
  For mere convenience we use these terms of “the left out” or “the victims of social exclusion”, but it is clear that for us no one is ever “left out” (in the sense of being “rejected” or “expelled” outside) of the capitalist mode of production, of the world of wage labour. All the proletarians are free workers, dispossessed of their means of subsistence, forced to sell their labour force. In this general meaning, the lack of work and wage income does not constitute an exclusion of the mercantile society, but a further and even more violent bondage, the proletarian being devoid of land or wage.
  Some subtler media, less inclined to the servile reproduction of the Pentagon’s official versions, thus more frequent in Latin America for example, make the distinction between (on one hand) the terrorism as we describe here –consequently endorsing the anti-terrorist campaign of the world state- and (on the other hand) the “guerrilla warfare” of “resistance against the imperialism” of the USA such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, ETA in Spain… This constitutes a new media category, i.e. a partial acknowledgment of the nature of these movements, but therefore also a subtler cover up of this nature.
  All these ideological dimensions obviously materialize very concretely against the proletariat, but they never constitute the material basis of the social conflicts. They are nothing but shitty bourgeois polarizations, a quagmire in which the proletariat loses its capacity to act autonomously, when its struggle remains internationally limited and isolated.
  To blame all problems on speculation only, is to blame the problems on a poor management, and thus equates to claiming that new policies could change the situation. All that is done to neutralize the proletariat and channel it towards participating in the elections.
  With the symbols of value, such as the dollar or the euro, the same phenomenon is observed - a permanent fluctuation of their “value” on the markets. However, in the long run, it is obvious that they will lose value compared to commodities that have an intrinsic value.
  Karl Marx, “Value, Price and Profit,” New York, International Co., Inc, 1969, edited by Eleanor Marx Aveling.
  We’re trying to give the term “land” its more general meaning of “nature”, that is, the whole ecosystem that harbours life and the human species in particular. It therefore does not only comprise land strictly speaking, but also water, minerals, forests, seas, fauna and flora… and everything capitalism calls “natural resources”. The whole planet has been confiscated by capital and submitted to the dictatorship of profit rate that jeopardizes the very life on Earth. The expression of this contradiction is the class contradiction, in other words, the contradiction between the persistence of capitalism and the persistence of life.
  Let us not forget that it is precisely because the amount of land is limited (especially cultivable land) that the production of staple food conflicts with other potential uses of land, such as animal food production (that in turn may serve as food for humans) or biofuel-oriented production. Indeed, the ecologist programme aiming at maintaining the current capitalist World while substituting petrol with biofuel also contributes to the price rise of staple food. But biofuel production is not the explanation of the widespread price rise; it is rather another contributing factor and another consequence of land rarefaction caused by capitalism. In addition, from this point of view, capitalism made human food compete not only with animal food, but also with automobile fuel consumption. Let us however remember that the general reason behind the price rise of agricultural goods goes beyond that, and this will not be solved either by forcing the proletarians to feed on cereals in the same way animals are fed (as recommended by some ecologists – in order to reduce our “ecologic footprint”) nor by discarding biofuels.
  A noteworthy example of this trend aiming at reducing the quantity of land involved in agricultural production is hydroculture. It allows the rapid growth of water-drenched vegetables, resulting in an impoverished denaturised product, hardly a compensation for its generally lower price.
  Let us emphasize that right from the beginning, the development of class society brought along the affirmation of a superiority of the sedentary people (cultivators and stock farmers) over the nomadic ones (fishers, hunters, food-gatherers). This was backed by various ideologies in order to establish the superiority of civilisation (particularly when related to monotheistic religions) over all other human beings, going as far as denying human status to coloured and indigenous people, and to all those who had not been forced –namely due to prodigality of their natural habitat- to resort to wide-scale agriculture and cattle breeding. The extermination of the American Natives and generalized slavery have been justified by this ideology of superiority of Agricultural peoples over those resorting only to hunting, fishing or food-gathering. It would actually be rather interesting to study the semantic evolution through which the word “culture”, initially related only to the action of cultivating the land, has taken up this positive meaning of “culture of the spirit”, and “human knowledge”, as of the XVIth century. During the development of capitalism, this dislike progressively grew up to a wider acceptance, being that of the whole of the industrialized civilisation towards anything related to the land: superiority of industry, science, and city over the countryside, over agriculture and cattle breeding. The human being bound to the land is considered inferior to the human being free to sell his labour force. This disdain and “racism” appears unequivocally in many languages, typical vectors of ideology, in which many terms that designate the man bound to the land have a highly derogatory connotation: e.g. country bumpkin, yokel, peasant...
  How the struggle of the industry workers deals with the land question is illustrated quite clearly by the Luddite movement – the machines themselves were destroyed by workers dragged away from the land and forced to submit to the rhythm of the machines that were viewed as an enemy entity. The word “sabotage”, from the French “sabot” –clog- also conveys the contradiction directly experienced by men that industrialization torn away from the land. The clog, typical peasant shoe, was used to jam the machines by placing into in the gearwheels.
  Enforcing drug use in our suburbs and other places where excess proletarians concentrate is an old and widespread method of the bourgeoisie, and has been condemned by all revolutionary groups. The present role of the “pasta base” imposed on Latin America by the central and imperialistic apparatuses of state, is a perfect example of an ultra violent means of sedating the proletarians’ minds.
  As we developed in our publications in Spanish dealing with the critique of Leninism, the keystone of Social Democracy, and in particular its Marxist-Leninist variant, is the separation of the so-called historical interests of the proletarians from their immediate interests, to have them renounce to the first for the sake of the latter, that is, to put it simply, to have them give up on all class interests. This allows our enemies to enforce capitalist misery and ever increasing exploitation, in the name of Social Progress and Revolution. Never must the proletariat renounce to any of its class interests!
  For us, contrarily to Social Democrat conceptions, consciousness blooms in the struggle and not the opposite. As far as the party is concerned, it is not something “to be build” in order to “give the class the leader it needs”. To state that the affirmation of the proletariat as a class must be done outside and against all containment bourgeois organizations, equates to saying that it organizes itself as a party, the party aiming at the abolition of the existing conditions opposed to the party of order.

 


CM15.1 CAPITALIST CATASTROPHE and PROLETARIAN STRUGGLES