Each large cycle of economic expansion necessarily ends in a depression. To the development of the productive forces corresponds the imperious necessity of their destruction. All accumulation of wealth produces misery to a proportional extent. The concentration and centralisation of Capital carries with it a growing contraction of the possibilities for lucrative investment.
In opposition to all those who justify this system and who, each time that a new cycle of expansion develops, pretend that never again will there be another crisis, we communists- have always insisted on the intrinsic limits of Capital. We've always insisted on the indissociable unity between accumulation of Capital and accumulation of misery, between the development of the productive forces and the concomitant catastrophe of society, between "the wealth of nations" and imperialist war.
Against the current of the various parties of order and in total antagonism to social democracy, in opposition to fatalism and to all the dominant illusions, we can only laugh at the proclamation of "a new world order" supposedly purged of its contradictions. We claim loudly -in spite of our isolation- that the coming catastrophes will be still more devastating and that all attempts today to curb the internal contradictions of Capital can only lead to the postponement and the exacerbation of their unavoidable explosion.
Once more, the validity of communist theory is being confirmed by current events: the political, social and economic catastrophe is worldwide. Everywhere the working class is being subjected to more misery, more unemployment, more war... The capitalist world is less and less capable of hiding its putrid reality.
We do not intend, in this article, to quote all the figures or statistics illustrating this catastrophe. Each one of us, all proletarians, live this social disaster every day in our flesh. We will stress only some essential aspects of the world situation so as to illustrate the depth of today's catastrophe. We will make clear the violence with which this mode of production is confronted with its own historical limits today. On the other hand, we will highlight the unavoidability of a catastrophe that is generalised to the whole of humanity, unless the latter manages to destroy all the social market and labour relations that are crushing it.
The "war of all against all" has always been at the basis of this society. No reforms, no utopia, no attempts to "humanise" this society have ever been able to change this reality. But while in the past they tried to hide this reality, feeling shameful about it and talking at the same time about helping the poor, today they openly claim that such atrocities as "the poor getting poorer" are unavoidable. Never before has capitalism taken on the liberal discourse to such an extent. Never before in the history of this system have they asserted so openly that the growth of this society necessitates the misery of the masses, and that the famous economic development of society requires our sacrifice and the repression of all insubordination. The discourse and the recipes of the IMF -in times past considered to be the programme of the ultra-right- have become, over the last few years, the only conceivable economic politics. Even the "economic" model advocated by Pinochet (2) to get out of the crisis, has now become famous again and those bourgeois factions who do not accept it are soon edged out.
It has now become clear that reformism and humanism are just idle politicking. Capital doesn't care about those who've pretended to keep it under control; it has shown that it is the only boss who commands everything and that all those who've pretended to direct it, have been nothing else but its mere executors (3). It has become all too clear that in this society there is only one god to worship: PROFIT!
But while reality became more and more forthright and world capitalism sank into a generalised depression, the proletarian masses, anaesthetized by TV, video, papers and other brain-washers, did not see the reality of this crisis -as always, consciousness trailed behind. Capital could continue to pretend that the USA, Japan and Germany were still valid models of liberal market economic growth while in fact, everywhere, worldwide, capitalism entered into a generalised depression. The economic catastrophe of capitalism in the East was so violent and so fast that it remained possible to uphold the conception that the liberal market economy remained superior and was the only valid model free of all risks of crisis.
Neither the clarity nor the brutality of the discourse asserting that all development necessitates misery and sacrifices, could hinder the expansion of the United States as a "model" to strive for. But in the United States itself the catastrophe had reached such incredible proportions that it could no longer be hidden (4). The "model" was only intended to be sold abroad. The "model" was used for export only because in the United States itself it had irremediably crashed and could no longer remain credible in the eyes of millions of proletarians who had to face poverty and unemployment. In this country, the "model" had reached a state of putrefaction. The sacrifices that were called for for the sake of future development could no longer be justified since it had become impossible to hide that this development opposes itself to the immediate and historic interests of the human species. During a whole period of economic growth, misery increased (in relative terms, but also, in some aspects, in absolute terms) and all aspects of human life deteriorated: more homeless; more famine; less health care; massive drug addiction; increase in rapes, crimes and violence in general; generalised pollution; development of racism in all strata of society; militarisation of daily life...
But the United States remained a "model" for export, because over the last decades they were the motive force of world capital and represented the antithesis to the pretention (by now completely obsolete) embodied in the Soviet Union and its allies of checking and planifying the economy (it is in this way that the United States became the very symbol of "triumphant capitalism"). The imposition of the American "model" -in spite of blatant reality-is also due to the way this reality is being reflected by the media, and by the fact that whereas political managers are forced (by Capital itself) to produce some immediate results, the same is not true for technocrats and analysts who prepare the theories for the international media: they can afford to water down reality, to produce optimistic images to replace reality (that is their "raison d'être").
We would just like to draw attention to the fact that the "wellbeing" that politicians depict, the model of society that they are offering us today, is not some paradise, some utopia, but only an embellished image of the United States. What a prospect!
In the areas of the world where "anti-imperialism" against the United States was a powerful ideology for controlling the proletariat, the positive image of the United States was more powerful still. Not only was it pretended, in these countries, that misery in the US could not possibly be compared to misery elsewhere, since "the USA is a rich country", "a developed country" (with a GNP of such an amount of US$ per inhabitant!), but moreover, and in full agreement with the interests of the bourgeoisie of this country and of the whole world, the importance of the historic struggles of the proletariat in the United States was being tarnished or even completely negated. The myth of a "labour aristocracy" systematically allowed the overshadowing of the explosive character of the contradictions and the historic importance of the struggle of our class brothers against Capital and the State (5).
Today's worldwide economic depression that strikes more particularly the very heart of the command centre of the system -the productive space of the United States- makes this contradiction even more complete. The catastrophe of social and economic reality in the United States stands more and more deeply in contradiction with its pretention to be the only valid capitalist alternative.
Without doubt it is difficult to grasp the exact meaning of the following figures:
It has also proved difficult to make it understood that before the struggles in Argentina (Cordobazo), before '68 in France or '69 in Italy, before even the important proletarian struggles in China (led astray by what is known as the "cultural revolution"), that the wave of proletarian struggles had basically started in North-America, in the South of the United States, in the North of Latin-America, in Santo Domingo, in Mexico,... MAINLY IN THE BLACK AND HISPANIC GHETTOES OF LOS ANGELES.
The revolt of our comrades of Los Angeles in May 1992 announces the agony of the myth of the United States as a "model" to imitate, and prepares the ground for today's struggles of the international proletariat. It shows not only that the USA does not constitute a valid "model", but also that this area is not safe from the wave of proletarian revolts that shake the world. All this expresses a qualitative step forward in the nature of our struggles and does away with the illusion that each time there should be some "special" reason that explains the "particular" origin of such or such a struggle.
Thanks to this revolt during which our comrades from LA attacked the State and its representatives, thanks to the strength with which they stood up against the world of property, the last illusions about the American "model", or about the supposed differences between the proletariat of this country and of the rest of the world, have fallen to pieces.
When in Poland or in Rumania revolts erupted, we were told that this was because of the dictatorship and of the bureaucratic tendencies that dominate these countries; when in Algeria, in Morocco or in South Africa the proletariat rose up and clashed violently with bourgeois power, they told us that this was because of the age-old backward situation of this historically "underdeveloped" continent; when proletarians in Venezuela and in Argentina attacked private property and the State, these struggles were faked up to look like mere looting caused by famine and supposedly peculiar to "Third World" countries; when in France and in Britain (in Vaux-en-Velin, and Trafalgar Square for instance) the same class anger expressed itself, they blamed marginals and immigrants... and today, when at the very centre of the capitalist model revolts erupt, and when these struggles spread from Los Angeles to the suburbs of Toronto, Washington and New York, then what else can the international bourgeoisie do than lie once more and claim that all this is only because of a problem "amongst blacks and hispanics"! But such an absurd story will undoubtedly be difficult to impose and it becomes obvious that even for the bourgeoisie the credibility of the American "model" starts getting into bad shape.
For the world bourgeoisie, a model of development remains attractive as long as it works. It can remain attractive even when proletarians are starving to death (and this is one of the historic conditions for all intensive growth of industry!) and when the main cities get filled up with unemployed and beggars. But the charm of such a model fades away as soon as proletarians start to rebel and challenge the established order.
This is why, when Bush was forced to bloodily repress the revolt in Los Angeles, the myth of the North American "model" disappeared as if by magic. All the big chiefs of the world industrial giant, all Presidents, Ministers... quickly announced their opposition to the North American "model" and declared that the revolt was due to the particular conditions in the USA... i.e. could not possibly occur in their own country!
It is always the same song: the proletariat supposedly never fights against capitalist misery, but always against abuses or "abnormal" developments of the system. This is how the "racist abuses that exist in the USA"... or still, "neoliberalism", or "Reaganomics", etc. where blamed for having caused the struggles that shook the USA in 1992.
These clumsy justifications serve the aim of hiding that the revolt
of the proletariat in Los Angeles was directed against the enemies that
oppress us, and therefore expresses the interests of all proletarians all
over the world. They try to conceal that in the whole world their system
is the same, that the struggle of proletarians in Los Angeles is our own,
and that, while we fight against the bourgeoisie of "our" country, we stand
on the same side of the barricades as our class comrades in Los Angeles.
|"Hence the highest development of productive
power together with the greatest expansion of existing wealth will coincide
with depreciation of capital, degradation of the labourer, and a most straitened
exhaustion of his vital powers. These contradictions of course, lead to
explosions, cataclysms, crises, in which by momentaneous suspension of
all labour and annihilation of a great portion of capital the latter is
violently reduced to the point where it can go on fully employing its productive
powers without committing suicide. Yet, these regularly recurring catastrophes
lead to their repetition on a higher scale, and finally to its violent
Marx - Grundrisse.
As always, revolutionary communism denounces these lies (7) and insists on the fact that war, famine, crisis, unemployment, racism... are not foreign to capitalist development, but are its authentic products!
What has changed today, with the vertiginous worldwide depression, is that Capital no longer has a positive pole to exhibit, that there are no more "model" countries to imitate.
Today (october 1992) in the United States, factories close down one after the other, misery is growing beyond all limits and social decomposition has reached a peak. This destroys the myth of an American economy being safe from crisis. But, on top of this, even such countries as Germany or Japan, which used to be considered -no longer than two years ago- as "models" of economic growth and of dynamism, are severely hit by the generalised depression.
For instance, the Tokyo stock market, supreme representative of "Japanese dynamism" and former "model" for investors of the whole world, hasn't stopped collapsing since 1989: its index that had reached 38,600 in 1989, fell back to 14,300 in the summer of 1992. This represents a drop of 63%. And as far as the other models of development are concerned, the situation is hardly any more brilliant. As a matter of fact, the whole of Western Europe is sinking into a generalised depression: the system of monetary parity, generally considered to be the most solid of all, has broken down. London is announcing closures and bankruptcies every day, the Italian economy is sinking into chaos and the other countries are trying to resist as well as can be expected. Whole sectors of the economy, the most representative corporations of capitalist progress and dynamism, go bankrupt or have to announce a fall in profits, redundancies and so on.
On the international level, the case of Pan American for sure is the most typical one because it is the main calling card of the US. But other companies in the US as well, such as TWA, Eastern or Braniff are in the same situation. On the other continents, the situation is hardly any better: Lufthansa, Air France, SAS, Sabena... are announcing ever greater losses. Aeroflot, the company that has the biggest air fleet and the highest number of flying hours in the whole world, is also facing increasing difficulties.
The same goes for the car industry. General Motors, the historic symbol of social and democratic North American capitalism (8), announces incredible losses and drastic cuts in jobs. Ford and Chrysler the same. Other sectors of industry as well are faced with identical problems. AT&T, the biggest communications company of the whole world, had to admit several thousands of million $US of losses in 1991. IBM is continuously planning new restructurations and new strategies and anticipates massive lay-offs. NCR and Digital Equipment are also sacking workers massively.
So it is hardly surprising that faced with such "models" of dynamism, development, democracy, or economic efficiency... that the growth of the world GNP for the first time is nearly zero, and that all estimations confirm the provision (for the first time ever) for a reduction in international trade in volume (about 3%) and in value (about 1.5%).
In as little time as it took for the world bourgeoisie to rally round the general apology of liberalism, the various managers and economists have already started to call for State intervention again. The most determined defenders of the "invisible hand" (i.e. of the automatic regulation of economic life without State intervention) started to call for such or such measures in order to increase credit to companies, to increase effective demand, and they criticise the management by former administrations blamed for provoking chaos.
This is no surprise to us. The myth of the invisible hand perfectly regulating the economy, is a myth that during a period of economic growth is always being supported by the dominant ideology. But as soon as capitalism gets into a new cycle of crisis, this myth collapses. Capitalist cycles take place according to a scheme that hardly ever varies. During periods of depression, all bourgeois factions fight against the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. They feel in their bones that the markets get narrower and narrower, and that they no longer expand at a pace required by capitalist accumulation (10). These bourgeois factions then call for political interventions to protect the process of accumulation from devalorisation; either by counter-balancing as much as possible the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and this generally results in an increase in the rate of exploitation; or by trying artificially to enlarge the markets through the extension of credit payments, by public expenditures, by the militarisation of social life... Today is only a repetition of the past.
However, if the general scheme hardly ever varies, nevertheless the situation changes because each crisis is always more acute than the previous one. The contradictions that in the past were hidden and postponed, now explode even more violently. The economic politics that have been used in the past in order to artificially increase effective demand transform themselves into additional problems. In all sectors Capital is being confronted with its historic limits.
We can take the example of companies that manage to remain on an even keel because they benefit from different forms of protection (subsidies, commercial protection, free credit), in complete contradiction however with the law of value that condemns them to close down and sack their work force. With each economic cycle, such companies move further away from a "natural" profitability (i.e. a profitability obtained through the famous "invisible hand"). Each year it takes more subsidies, more cheap credit, more measures of economic protection... to keep them on an even keel. These procedures -that result in increasing public deficit in order to finance companies that are no longer economically viable- become more and more perilous and they stand in contradiction with other sectors of Capital who do not accept that the State allocates their surplus value with the aim of helping obsolete companies to survive that have become completely devalorised. For Capital, the dilemma becomes more acute: on the one hand the "natural" necessity to close down factories, producing millions more unemployed - and this in turn will reduce effective demand even more, and is likely to provoke inevitable social explosions; on the other hand, the "choice" to postpone this economic truth again, knowing perfectly well that generalised bankruptcy will become all the more violent. This kind of problematics will generalise itself and involve an always growing number of countries or blocs of countries until the situation will become unbearable and the bourgeois faction in charge of government gets swept away by another one that will start again to hold up the flag of liberalism, but will also inevitably soon have to confront the moment of truth! This was the case, a few decades ago, in South America with industrial populism. This is what has been going on in the "East" countries such as the Soviet Union, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary... (11) over the last few years. And this is also the tendency today in countries like the United States or Britain, for instance.
The artificial increase of demand on the basis of private and public credit, of public expenditure, or of "welfare politics", has not only allowed capitalism to continue to function, but also to get out of situations of economic depression and to enter, provisionally, into a phase of expansion. The United States in particular, is a good example of national Capital having been propelled beyond its limits on the basis of artificial creation of solvent demand. In this country, even more than in all others, public expenditure has reached astronomic levels (especially in the field of military industry). In this country, they've acted as if there was no limit to the granting of credit to private industry and they've multiplied, at rates unheard of before, all possible credits to the customer without taking into account his real earnings. This policy could be used in the United States more than anywhere else since this country has the possibility to issue -to an apparently unlimited extend- the unit of value, not only as an expansive internal policy, but also because of the role played by the $US on the world market in general (as a matter of fact, in spite of the failure of the Bretton Woods agreements, the United States continues to function as the central bank of the worldwide capitalist system) as well as on the domestic market of numerous countries. This has allowed for an increase in demand without -in spite of this- immediately creating a generalised devalorisation of the unit of value (as happens in other countries when the local State issues illconsidered amounts of money). Indeed, international trade today absorbs an incalculable amount of these units of value. In the beginning of the Seventies, when worldwide capitalism was confronting the objective limits of expansion following generalised destruction caused by war, these policies were what allowed the successive economic expansions of the post-war period to be financed (12). Due to these policies, the national economy of the United States could impose itself as the uncontested motor of worldwide capitalism during this period.
We should not forget that if Reaganite (or Thatcherite) liberalism has pretended to be anti-interventionist to the point of flirting with fashionable anarcho-capitalist ideologies (13), this is because it clearly advocated the abandonment of all social illusions within the capitalist system. Its politics of no taxes on capital stood in full agreement with the cuts it operated in the whole of the "social budget". The consequences of such policies resulted in a short-lived recomposition of the main driving force of the economy, the rate of profit. At the same time a relative fall of salaries occurred, i.e. a net increase of the rate of exploitation. However, they did not have the courage to take these politics to their ultimate consequences nor to abandon at the same time the whole of the credit allocation facilities (14) because this would have caused an even worse and more abrupt catastrophe. On the contrary, they tried to combine the generalised increase in the rate of exploitation (due to a reduction of the overall income of the work force - including unemployment allocations, welfare and so on) as well as the decrease in taxes (15) with the widespread expansion of State sponsored credit. This has resulted in the hugest fiscal deficit ever accumulated in the history of world capitalism. While the official discourse was about liberalism and promised to reduce or even completely eliminate the fiscal deficit, it remained obvious that capitalist reality demanded the preservation of an economy based on public expenditure (particularly the war economy) and the application of Keynesian economic politics.
But since, in spite of this, no economic growth ensued, these economic politics failed and illusions vanished. At the same time the international bourgeois class never stopped predicting the coming of a new golden age, the coming of a new economic expansion that would put an end to today's generalised depression. Even today still, in spite of the obvious worsening of the world economic situation and mainly in the biggest examples of triumphant national economies (United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy...), not one day passes by without having some politician, some economist or some journalist telling us that soon we'll be delivered from the economic crisis and get back to the golden age of capitalist prosperity.
But beyond all these nice words and promises, the procedure remains the same: lowering of the interest rates (basically through the lowering of the discount rate of the Central Banks in order to favour credit and investment) and increase of public expenditures. This can only be achieved by increasing always more public and private debt, internal and external.
This is exactly what has been done up till now and this is the source of today's generalised chaos. All speeches, all promises of expansionist economic politics, only serve the purpose of injecting some more morphine into moribund capitalism.
In 1985, in an article against the various myths concerning the external debt of "Latin American countries", we already stressed the fact that this corresponded not to a particular phenomenon but to the generalised and insoluble situation of worldwide capitalism.
"Faced with the end of the phase of expansion that followed the second world war (during the whole history of capitalism, wars, reconstruction periods, routed proletarians... have always been the inevitable antecedents that have made an ulterior "healthy" development possible), worldwide capitalism has only succeeded in postponing catastrophic depressions, while creating huge amounts of fictitious capital. The levels that were reached in this field, not only in absolute terms, but also in relative terms compared to world production, are far ahead of what ever existed before. Even more so, the most incredible anarchy and the absence of widespread control in the relationship between these two magnitudes (between fictitious capital and the production of goods) prevails on the international scale. For the future phases of depression, this preludes that such a situation will become multiplied (or expressed differently, will be raised to a power with unpredictable consequences) by the massive and brutal destruction of fictitious capital, blowing up all contradictions of this social system at a level unheard of until now. The different stages of easy and widespread credit during the post-war period, the massive debt of all governments, as well as the unrestrained creation of units of value that in fact do not represent any value, correspond to always shorter and weaker takeoffs of the world economy. These kind of drugs administered to an exhausted body have at each cycle produced a stimulating effect. But it made the system of enlarged international reproduction of Capital function as if it was a child... until the effect wears out and a higher dose of drugs becomes necessary. Then after a while even higher doses of drugs produce no more effect and finally the remedy becomes worse than the illness... and in the end, Capital appears as it really is, an enuretic and rotten morphine addicted corpse.
For the proletariat, the only real perspective for the human species, it is fundamental to expose this worldwide diabolical dynamic: against all dominating myths, it is of vital importance to reveal that debt (or rather today's generalised and insoluble debt) is nothing else but one of the most remarkable manifestations of the anarchy and of the historical end of a social system that engulfs all of mankind." (16)So the increase in expenditure and of public debt have been the historical remedies that have allowed, in each country and for a given period, a certain growth beyond the real limits of production. These therapies have been used each time again on the world level, and we can assert that world production and trade over the last decays could only function "adequately" because of such policies... but this is precisely what has brought about the present situation of default in payment. And the worst for world capital is that even today's rhythm of growth, nearly zero, can only be maintained through an increase in international debt, i.e. by the implementation of the very economic policies that have become totally unbearable for Capital today.
A little bit more than ten years ago, the financial catastrophe was so bad that most Latin American countries, as well as many countries from other continents, threatened to stop debt repayment. Straight away, the granting of credit was cut down for a large number of them. The same happened a bit later in various African States and in several East European countries. Then for a while the world bourgeoisie cherished the illusion that growth would continue anyway, "in spite of everything", thanks to the socalled "new effective demand" that was supposed to come from the East (17). But soon these new illusions vanished as well, and once again they had to apply the policies of easy credit so as to create solvent buyers... while only necessities existed... but these policies also ran out after a few years. Simultaneously, in other parts of the world, the same limits as those that we know today were reached: the US is a very clear example of this: if we add the debts of consumers, of companies and of the central government of this country, we reach an astronomical number superior to $US10000 billion, which equals 2 years of national production in this country!
In spite of all these efforts, in spite of all these therapies to revitalize Capital, in spite of the existence of such artificial buyers, in spite of the mass of investments financed through credit, in spite of the extent of fictitious demand created by the Keynesian multiplier (18), today all these vain promises about the "end of recession" fall apart one after the other.
But could there possibly be any other unexplored possibilities to allow Capital to overcome today's generalised depression? Could there be any other bourgeois politics than those that have been implemented until now? The answer is no. Categorically no!!! (19)
Decisions are not taken either by worldwide Capital, nor by Capital in general, but by each particular Capital, by each particle of Capital. It is because of this reason, in such situations without any capitalist general solution, as is the case today, that the decomposition of Capital into particles accelerates, that competition grows stronger still and that the generalised "run for your life" (the true rule of this society) materializes when each has to walk on the head of his neighbour in order to survive.
This "neighbour" of course is first of all the proletariat, its "own" proletariat and the capitalist will not skimp on any efforts in order to increase the rate of exploitation. But the "neighbour" is also personified by the bourgeois competitor, and each capitalist is ready to destroy this neighbour by waging commercial war until its ultimate consequences: military war.
So what matters is not what the capitalist wants or does not want, whether he's "left" or "right", whether he's the director of a multinational or of the Cuban State. What matters is what each capitalist is forced to do, in accordance with his function as a manager. As Marx would have said, he's nothing else but the creature of value valorising itself, of the social relation reproducing itself (20) and in this sense he's not responsible for what he's doing since he's obliged to act that way by Capital. We feel that this assertion is essential to fight against all illusions about the capacities of such or such a capitalist, of such or such a manager to act differently from the way Capital forces him to act (21).
This is the general explanation of what is happening at present and of what we're living daily: always stronger restrictions, increasing misery, more unemployment... it is the explanation of the always more murderous war against the proletariat. And it is also the explanation of the unceasing increase in local wars and of the intensification of inter-bourgeois wars. These wars materialize through the marked increase in protectionism, the rupture of commercial agreements, through the difficulty of bringing trade agreements to a longlasting successful conclusion, as we can witness with the GATT negotiations (22); also through the rupture of the old alliances (and we shouldn't forget that countries and unions of countries are nothing else but inter-bourgeois alliances trying to confront other capitalist factions!), through the rupture of commercial and military blocs, through the constitution of new imperialist constellations...
However, it is clear that the austerity measures -the lowering of real wages, the increase in intensity and hours of labour in order to reach the same level of production with less workers (i.e. while paying less in wages), all the measures recommended by generalised liberalism and which result in a net increase in the rate of exploitation and of profitability for particular capitalists- including when this concerns an entire country (and when the bourgeois of that country benefit from this), all these measures are prejudicial to capital in general since they reduce the worldwide effective demand. This for instance is what was practised by the Pinochet government. The violent lowering of real wages (and even more so of relative wages) and the increase in the rate of exploitation and of profit, have attracted capitals from the whole world and allowed for an acceleration in national growth. But, logically, the excess of surplus-value that was produced in this way could not be reinvested in the same country and necessarily had to be introduced on to the market of other national capitals, in order to realize itself; this shows clearly that this kind of policy is a short run policy or -if you prefer- that it will necessarily come into contradiction with the interests of proletarians but also with those of other national capitals, and that it cannot possibly bring about a solution on the level of global Capital.
The other so-called antagonistic policy by which nation States try to manage the contradiction between particular and global capital consists in increasing fictitious demand. This does not bring about a global solution either and will also lead to war. In the face of the tendency for each particular capital to increase beyond all limits the rate of exploitation and of profit, nation States always represent a higher level of globality for Capital (23). The managers of the State and their ideologists, economists and sociologists as well as being apologetic about existing social relations, all try to abstract themselves from immediate reality; they'll advocate an economic policy that imposes discipline on each particular capital not only on the basis of governmental efforts (public expenditure, budget deficit...) but also through the establishment of a series of rules for each particular capital (minimum wage, maximum working hours...). This allows the State to represent itself more easily as being "beneficial for the whole of society" (24). All populist regimes, from Hitler to Fidel Castro and from Roosevelt to Stalin, have tried to implement such policies but its most thorough theorization is Keynesianism. This policy can also only be a short term policy, since in the long run all contradictions are postponed, accumulated, exacerbated(25). It can only be a national policy and not a worldwide one since it stands in contradiction with the international competitiveness of the companies of the countries that apply such a policy and because sooner or later it will lead to the accumulation of deficits of the balance of payments and of the balance of trade as well as reinforcing protectionism. It will lead to the confirmation of its weakness in the commercial war and this unavoidably will raise the need to pursue this policy in the military field. It is clear also that people cannot just be hired to dig holes that other people will fill in -what dynamises the national economy most is a war economy! And since each national capital considers those who stand in competition with itself, who take "its" raw materials, who sell cheaper, who attack its position on the markets... to be its enemies, the drive towards war will become always more imperious. So this policy also can only lead towards imperialist war, and its most consistent theoreticians -like Keynes himself- never really felt emmbarrassed to admit that since war is necessary to save capitalism, one had to prepare for it.
All this leads to an increase in the number of local wars, to the decomposition of old alliances and nations, to the constitution of new fronts and imperialist constellations and to the generalisation of war to the whole planet. Such is the capitalist perspective.
And without mentioning the whole series of accidents and daily catastrophes that Capital imposes on the worldwide population, such as nuclear accidents or the multiplication of areas where children are born with various physical defects because of pollution and contamination that their parents have been exposed to (26). And without taking into account that what Capital is proposing as a model (life in a modern city for instance) could not possibly be generalised to the whole of humanity because this simply would jeopardize the survival of the planet earth.
"You are being one-sided" we are told. No, we are not onesided, but it is Capital that is one-sided, its own progress leads to crisis, to destruction and to war. This society is a cannibalistic society, the development of Capital feeds itself with human beings, it destroys them, kills them, swallows them. And on the level of the whole planet the present situation stands as a blatant confirmation of our conception, a categorical confirmation of communist theory.
"liberal democracy can be the final point of the ideological evolution of humanity and the final form of all human government; as such it can be the final point of history." (27)Worldwide capitalist reality everyday contradicts the speeches by the apologists of the system: never before have there been so many territories at war, so many military and para-military clashes; never before has there been such a mass of corpses caused by capitalist war (and peace!); never before in human history has militarism taken such an important place in life and never before has the production of arms and their commercialisation been so colossal; never before -in relative and absolute terms- have such large numbers of human beings been confronted with the daily reality of war (and/or with the possibility of the launching of war at almost any time) and with all the consequences that go with it.
Today, war is everywhere; not a single continent escapes from it. War is going on in former Yugoslavia, in former USSR, in Somalia, in Turkey, in Iraq, Burma, in the Philippines, in Lebanon, Chad, in CentralAmerica... without mentioning those other imperialist wars, like the "drug war" in Bolivia, in Peru, in Colombia, in Brazil... that also directly attack millions of proletarians.
Experts in political science have listed 125 "centres of ethnic conflict" in the former Russian bloc, of which 25 have already degenerated into open armed clashes. Nearly every day a new armed confrontation takes place; nearly every day a new "nation calling for self-determination" rises up. Each caricature of a "republic" in the former USSR has its own "home-made" contradiction because such or such of its minorities threatens to promulgate its independence. Almost daily new curfews are being imposed in such or such area and more central armies are being called in to put down more local ones. One day, such or such an imperialist power -in full agreement with its expansionist interests- recognises the right to self-determination for such and such a new "State" and the next day -still in agreement with its expansionist interests- the same power refuses the same right to some other State. In this game of profits and numbers, of speculation and stock-exchange, of alliances and ruptures (28), thousands of corpses of men, women and children, thousands of wounded and disabled people... just pile up while the rest of the population in these regions survives precariously in the midst of ruins, famine and a general shortage of everything. No need to go to Somalia or Ethiopia (where the situation is getting more dramatic everyday) to attest that the population is facing starvation. In the former USSR, and in spite of all Western "aid" in order to maintain bourgeois law and order, famine is threatening and a rate of 90% of the population living in poverty is officially admitted.
It really is no longer possible to hide the destructive and cannibalistic character of this mode of production!!!
Everywhere, Capital is facing its own limits and this opposes it irremediably to the human species and forces the latter to destroy Capital if it does not want itself to be destroyed.
Economic growth zero; economic policies to bring the crisis to an end that have all failed; war, its generalisation and the historical opposition to humanity that is the only outcome of all capitalist efforts; and even more so the unique result of the economic growth of Capital can only be a generalised worsening catastrophe.
If today all capitalist models collapse, it's because their extension is no longer possible; because if we hypothetically project today's economic growth into the future we can see that this would lead to the generalised destruction of even the most fundamental aspects of human life; because all life on this whole planet would simply die if the model of the United States were to be generalised everywhere; because the planet and humanity could not possibly survive if New York (and other big cities) instead of having 20 million inhabitants, would have 50 million! (29)
The destruction of the ozone layer, generalised pollution of the atmosphere and of water, global warming, desertification, destruction of forests... and all other disastrous consequences for the human species are only the isolated aspects of a colossal planetary catastrophe.
Everywhere, capitalism has reached the historical limit of its possibilities of existence, and the great tragedy for the human species is that Capital is carrying on at our expense because we are not capable of destroying it.
This is the big problem for humanity: the catastrophe, as we wrote at the beginning of this article, is not for the future but very much of the living, dreadful, present.
In this sense, the problem of revolution is not the problem of such or such "party", of such or such sect, of such or such social group, but it is the problem of the whole proletariat, of humanity as a whole.
In the face of the barbarism of the capitalist world, in the face of the exacerbation of crisis and war, in the face of always increasing attacks on its conditions of living and struggle, the proletariat has always revolted and we do not doubt that in the near future it will rise up again even stronger.
We can't pretend that over the last few years there haven't been any proletarian struggles. As a matter of fact, there have been many. In certain cases, like in Iraq, Burma, Algeria, Venezuela, Los Angeles... these struggles were very radical and hit at the very centres of power of capital and its State, without allowing themselves to be controlled by the unions or by any other bourgeois party of law and order. But today's main problem is that these strikes, revolts, demos... do not have any continuity, do not have any direction, do not have any international links between them.
We can't pretend that there have been no major explosions of proletarian outrage, and we've welcomed them. But we have to admit that they've lacked organisation and that for this reason, in many cases, they could easily be defeated and this allowed the State to step up its terror again.
We can't say that proletarians during these revolts didn't recognise their interests, since -for instance- they have opposed imperialist war, they've deserted, disobeyed, killed the officers that tried to send them to the battlefields, executed hundreds of policemen and other capitalist lackeys, as in Iraq. But due to a lack of structures and international and internationalist directives, such revolts have been isolated and contained by the nationalist bourgeois forces and this has meant a defeat of the internationalist militants.
We can't say either that these struggling proletarians do not know who they're attacking since, in general, through these revolts, they attack private property and its defenders and they seize whatever they need. The big problem is that a few days later everything gets "back to normal", to the sad daily struggle for survival where everybody tries to get by on their own and Capital dominates again.
We can't say that they have not confronted the State's servants, the policemen, clerics and other religious functionaries, leaders from left and right, trade unionists and journalists... since it is against these people that proletarian rage has been directed in the first place. But we have to admit that a majority of these State lackeys still sleep soundly in their beds while many of our comrades die on the battlefields or are in prison.
There exists an enormous disproportion between, on the one hand, the catastrophe of this society and the potential for explosion of the proletariat and on the other hand the lack of basic structures of our class, such structures that would lead us not to the repetition of 10, 100, 1000 revolts... but to an international social revolution.
We lack workers' associationism, international structures for contact, organisations, directives, a class consciousness of our objectives, capacities to coordinate, to decide in relation to the interests of the whole movement, to transform common international interests into converging actions that coincide in time... In short, more than ever we're in need of structuring the real community of struggle, constituting it as an organised force, as an internationalist communist Party.
Capitalism itself does not leave any other choice to the proletariat, to humanity.
2. Pinochet's Christian Democrat successors talk shamefully of the "economic" model and, all the while pursuing its politics, claim that they are only applying it to the "economy", that is not in the "social" or "political" sense. As if it wasn't the economy which had obliged Pinochet to apply Pinochetism on the political and social plains: poverty and open state terrorism.
3. The most spectacular example of a historical attempt to develop and check Capital, is given by the Bolsheviks, filled with their social democratic ideology, starting in 1917. The failure was devastating -and could not have been any different- and Capital again became the only real social subject, transforming the Bolshevik party and its leaders into mere puppets.
4. Cf. "Quelques records du modèle économique mondial: USA" in Communisme No.36 (June 1992).
5. In some countries, like Iran, the State does not hesitate to put forward in its propaganda the "miserable situation of the poor" in the USA. They try to use the contradictions in the USA (between wealth and poverty, for instance) to depict this country as "a satan" and try to make proletarians in Iran reject the "corrupt western way of life". Their aim is to rally the proletariat behind their own ideological model and ("Islamic") values. This was one of the ways that the State in Iran used to defeat the very radical attack by the revolutionary proletariat during the 1979 uprisings against capitalist misery and its defenders (for instance through the promotion of such "radical" slogans as "Neither East nor West").
6. Corruption is not an "irregularity", it is the normal functioning of the ruling social system. In the same way, the existence of such or such a "mafia" is in reality nothing more than one of the expressions of the bourgeois State or, to be more precise, the blanket with which it covers itself in order to exonerate itself. The accusation enables one fraction to whitewash itself (of the things that they all do) while throwing the blame onto a rival fraction. At the same time this allows them to present the State as a neutral apparatus manipulated by bad administrators.
7. It is clear that most of the time those who support such lies and illusions, are themselves taken in by them and believe what they are saying. But nevertheless, these lies remain nothing but lies and in the historic war that the bourgeoisie is waging against the proletariat, they are manoeuvres to disorient and disorganise our class.
8. The reader should remind themselves that this company has always been presented as ideal not with respect to its size and economic clout (superior to that of some countries) but also because the workers have the opportunity to become shareholders. General Motors actually has the greatest number of workers who have become legal owners of their company in the world (the figure amounts to several hundred thousand). Of course this is part of and reinforces the myth legal ownership can never assure economic disposal of the means of production, that is to say their true ownership.
9. The illusion of controlling and planifying capitalist development is a permanent feature of all bourgeois factions, including the liberals. But Capital -a monster without head and that nobody can control- doesn't care about this and laughs at all economists and planners. This confirms the theory of our historic party which asserts that it is anarchy that rules the capitalist world.
10. The lack of markets and the fall of the rate of profit are of course nothing else, from our point of view, but the manifestations as they are being experienced -more or less violently- by capitalists (directly in their wallets!) and by the whole of bourgeois society -manifestations of the immanent contradiction of Capital. Bourgeois society, that is nothing else but the process of value valorising itself, can only concretise such valorisation by provoking always more violent, more generalised and more devastating devalorisations.
11. This explains why the Gross Product of entire countries not only stagnates, but even decreases. Estimates forecast a fall of 18% of the industrial production of the former Soviet Union, and of an average 9.7% for the other East European countries!
12. The growth of the Gross Domestic Product of Japan and the main Western European countries during the post-war period, has shrunk from 5.6% for the period from 1950 to 1973, to 2.1% for the years that followed; in the United States it shrunk from 3.7% to 2.3% during the same period. We can assert that from 1973 onwards -on the world level- the growth of the GDP has been maintained thanks to this policy of credit expansion, in complete disproportion with real production.
13. These capitalist ideologies oppose themselves to all State intervention and pretend to be anti-State. They pretend to substitute private companies for the necessary capitalist bureaucracy, including in the field of policing. In spite of today's acknowledged success of private police forces and employers' militia in numerous countries and sectors -we should not forget that this has always existed- it is clear that capitalism will never be able to avoid centralising itself as a State.
14. In a more general way, we can assert that liberalism and protectionism are always relative. It is only normal that the champions of liberalism did not go as far as interfering with other more structural protections of the American or British productive space, such as the generalised protection of the agricultural sector.
15. Properly speaking, one cannot say that a reduction in taxes, as such, provokes an increase in the rate of exploitation. Whether it be the State or private bourgeois factions that appropriate surplus-value, from our point of view the result is the same and we qualify this as a simple transfer of value. Nevertheless, because of this for each particular capitalist the ratio increases between the amount of surplusvalue that he gets and the salaries that he has to pay (the particular rate of exploitation or of surplus-value), and therefore the ratio between this surplus-value and the whole of capital that this particular capitalist has invested. It is this reality that allows us to formulate things in this way and to consider that such measures increase the rate of exploitation and of profit (for each particular capital). On the other hand, it is precisely to obtain this result that these politics are being adopted. The aim is not to increase the global social rate of exploitation, but rather the private rate of exploitation of each capitalist. This is how they try to stimulate investment and the accumulation of productive capital.
16. from "La cuestion de la deuda: basta de versos" ["About debt: enough bullshit!"] in Comunismo No.19, June 1985.
17. Of course this was a purely ideological illusion based on the myth that the system that was collapsing in the East was a social system that was different from the one in the West! This illusion had no real economic basis to it: since the "buyers" did not have anything to pay with, so through what kind of magic could "effective demand" possibly increase! The closures of companies in the East did not even allow for Western companies to take up similar positions to the same extent, since the real income of the population had fallen precisely because of these closures and the unemployment that followed.
18. For instance, when they issue a government bond corresponding to $US1000, or when they issue $1000 in banknotes, and when with this paper fiction they finance civil engineering, then, according to Keynes (who was one of the most distinguished bourgeois economists of all time), not only will global production grow because of these civil engineering works, but also and even more so, because of what the workers will be able to buy with the wages they'll receive in return for their labour. The multiplier is the rate of increase in production compared to the initial investment. As we can see, the capacity to develop this fiction so that it could turn into reality, finds its limits, as all fiction does, in the development of the contradictions of reality.
19. A war of generalised destruction remains the only capitalist solution in this situation. But in relation to the analysis that we're developing at this stage, it would not be right to introduce this notion here as if it were just another plain economic policy of Capital; this would mean to impute Capital with a capacity for decision-making that it does not really have.
20. "But here individuals are dealt with in so far as they are the
personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations
and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic
formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less
than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature
he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above
Karl Marx, Capital,
Preface to the first german edition.
21. If a manager really refused to bow to the dictatorship of Capital, he would soon disappear as a capitalist and Capital would coopt someone else to replace him (as happens frequently).
22. Structures like GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) formalise the existing balance of forces between various capitals, companies, capitalist States, blocs of countries... During periods of expansion such structures work pretty well, but during periods like the present one such agreements are generally called into question. And, as we could see with the famous failure of the "Uruguay Round", such conferences are never-ending parodies that spectacularly reveal the impossibility of the various bourgeois factions accepting the settlements that they agreed upon yesterday, because today it would imply their own suicide. The repetition of such failures only preludes the passage of commercial war to military war.
23. It would not be right to state here, while analysing inter-capitalist contradictions, that the State represents Capital in general. This of course is true, in the face of the proletariat, in the face of its revolutionary project; but not on the level of our analysis here when we look at how each bourgeois State also stands in contradiction with other national States and how -including within each Statethere exists the tendency for its decomposition into its constituent parts, a tendency towards its own negation and towards its restructuring into the form of other -inferior"national units". A good example of this is what happened in former Yugoslavia!
24. It is clear that such rules are a response to proletarian struggles and that, just like all other legal formalisations, they tend to "grant" whatever is coherent with the needs of capitalist valorisation seeking in this way the renunciation by the proletariat of autonomous struggle.
25. Keynes himself didn't mind admitting that "in the long run, we're all dead!"
26. In various cities of the former USSR or Romania, for example, more than 85% of the children whose parents have had to handle nuclear missiles during their military service are born with serious genetic defects!
27. Francis Fukuyama, former advisor to the US State Department, in his book "The end of history and the last man."
28. This whole situation clearly illustrates -once again- that bourgeois politics directed towards (against!) the proletariat and called "the struggle for self-determination", "antiimperialist national liberation", "the struggle for independence"... is a particularly vicious politics.
29. The unilateral generalisation of the positive poles of Capital is of course an absurdity in itself, because the essence of capitalist development precisely contains this polarity in which the "poles" develop themselves while imposing "under-development" everywhere else. If we take these examples that make up the supreme ideal that all the ideologists of the regime long for (while pretending that proletarians share such desires) it is only to illustrate, even on such an extreme level, the full incompatibility between the ideal of Capital and the needs of the human species.
"The huge problems facing humanity today - exploitation, misery, war, famine, alienated and estranged labour, mass unemployment,... - are inherent to, and the necessary result of, capitalist progress and barbarity. They can only be properly confronted (and understood) if, instead of being seen in isolation, they are tackled in the context of their driving force - the capitalist system, the capitalist system history's last class society, a transitory society which is at the same time an integral part of an historical arch spanning from primitive communities to communism, and an integral part of the process of creating the material conditions for the institution of worldwide communist society. Communism will not mean the end of the human history. Communism, the formation of a universal community of human beings will, on the contrary, signal the genesis of truly human history, resulting from the abolition of private property, social classes, the State, etc..."
Theses of programmatical orientation of the ICG, thesis No.1
For us the analysis of the war in Yugoslavia is indispensable. This war is not only of the greatest importance for its direct consequences for the conditions of life and struggle of proletarians in the region - it is also important for the international proletariat, and because it announces and prefigures the military conflicts that are to come.
This is a telephone conversation between General Mladic, Serb commander of the army corps in Knin and the head of the Croat Interior Ministry (MUP) force in Split. This conversation between two men who apparently know each other well (having had the same career in the Yugoslav National Army) was reported by the BBC correspondent, Misha Glenny, in his book "The Fall of Yugoslavia".
"Is that you, Mladic?" "Yes it is, you old devil, what do you want?" "Three of my boys went missing near... and I want to find out what happened to them." "I think they're all dead." "I've got one of their parents on to me about it, so I can tell them for certain that they're gone?" "Yep, certain. You have my word. By the way, how's the family?" "Oh, not so bad, thanks. How about yours?" "They're doing just fine, we're managing pretty well." "Glad to hear it. By the way, now I've got you on the line, we've got about twenty bodies of yours near the front and they've been stripped bare. We slung them into a mass grave and they're now stinking to high heaven. Any chance of you coming to pick them up because they really are becoming unbearable...?"
This reality of the war was shown, for example, in July 1991, in Banija (in Croatia, on the frontier with Bosnia-Herzegovina) when armed groups, mercenaries, commandos of killers arrived in the villages and carried out massacres. They classified the inhabitants principally according to their Serb or Croat origins, obliging the Croats who were capable of serving to join their ranks and to take the Serbs as hostages. Then the units fired on all sides and the population fled. Following this the federal army invaded the villages, beginning by bombarding them and then hunting those who had not been able to flee. The fugitives of Croat, Hungarian and Serb origins fled in the direction of the big towns or towards Vojvodina or Herzegovina.
Little by little, these war operations grew, sometimes carried out by the Croat militias, which caused hatred to be directed towards all those considered to be Croats, sometimes by the Serb militias, directing hatred towards all those considered to Serbs. For the rest of the villages it was as if an earthquake had happened. Whereas for many years "Serbs", "Croats" or "Hungarians" were mixed to the point where they could no longer define themselves as belonging to one ethnic group or another, the nationalist forces operated a systematic separation according to their supposed ethnic links.
These war operations came to be aimed more and more at the big towns. Thus for example the industrial centre of Vukovar was bombarded for three months by the federal army. The inhabitants spent days and nights underground in the caves. They organised resistance, helping each other, with all nationalities together. The Croatian National Guard and the Ustaše (fascist forces) for their part organised the internal repression. When the federal army reentered the town, a whole series of corpses were found that had been shot from behind, summarily executed for refusing to let themselves be enroled in the Croatian National Guard and/or the Ustaše.
The general consequences of this type of operation were:
Indiscriminate massacres of proletarians, as is shown, for example, by the discovery of mass graves where the bodies of "Serbs", "Croats", "Bosnians"... are mixed together.
- For example, today you find internment camps in Serbia as well as in the parts of Bosnia occupied by the Croat militias.
- You can also find camps on the periphery of the big Slovenian towns where the state parks "its" refugees - that Slovenia which the whole world assures us is a successful model for the transformation taking place in Yugoslavia!
The existence of floods of refugees (more than 2.3 million in July '92 based on an estimate of the UN High Commission for Refugees) who try for better or worse to flee the massacres and throw themselves onto the roads in the hope of finding an unlikely exile elsewhere. Meanwhile, in Slovenia the government has declared that it will no longer accept Yugoslav refugees; in Sweden -a social democratic paradise according to some- the government has begun to expel refugees from Slovenia and Kosovo; in Denmark, the government has sent back more than two hundred Serb deserters...
Thus the press has mentioned nearly 200 Bosnian Muslim refugees in Croatia in the Karlovac camp, who were rounded up on Monday 17 August 1992 at 4 a.m. by the Croat armed forces to be sent back to the front in Bosnia. Some had been recently freed from Serb detention centres. All the men in the camp aged from 18 to 60 years were forced onto a bus for Rijeka, on the Adriatic coast, from where they would rejoin the combat positions.
- Since mid-July, four thousand refugee men have been "sorted", and then returned to the front via Rijeka and Split. The Croatian Vice-President, Mate Granic, recognised, on Tuesday 18 August 1992, that this operation "violated universal human rights". But he justified it by the necessity of avoiding "a social explosion" in his country.
- Similarly in Belgrade refugees from Croatia who are over 20 years old have been sent toward the front lines "to divert the anger of the Belgraders who reproach them for their quiet life in Serbia".
Direct, open repression against all those who resist. The state of war, the militaristic polarisation of society, allows the liquidation with complete impunity of all those who do not adhere to the patriotic and ideological values that flourish in all camps. Those that stand in the way are simply done away with!
- The HCR estimates that more than a hundred thousand young deserters and draft dodgers have fled the war and the punishment of prison which they can receive for "high treason".
The humanitarian campaigns as a means of blackmail in the hands of the different bourgeois fractions, the better to reinforce still more their control over the territories which they dominate, when they don't serve directly as a means of transporting arms ("in their impatience to acquire arms, the Bosnians have without doubt already obtained satisfaction and the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina accuse some countries participating in the humanitarian air bridge of having parachuted in arms", Le Monde, 21 August 1992).
The material disarmament of proletarians who refuse to fight on the fronts of this war which they recognise as not being theirs and which they flee from... The always sovereign HCR rejected the request of a Serb deserter who affirmed his "refusal to fight the Croats who are compatriots". In disarming the trouble-makers, in sending them back to "their" country, the bourgeoisie delivers them tied hand and foot, like peaceful and inoffensive lambs, to their executioners. And this is in the name of peace, in the name of the signed accords, in the name of the UN, that proletarians will be obliged to give up their arms and to wait passively for the hour of their execution in the abattoirs that are the fields of battle.
The incessant bombardments and the inquisitorial and murderous militias, the forced mobilisations and the prison camps, the refugees with their miserable lot... the shortages, the rationing, the price rises, pauperisation, the unemployment which hits a greater and greater part of the population. The different states make use of the war situation to better liquidate the least productive sectors and to impose new sacrifices on proletarians.
In 1984, a wave of very hard-fought strikes broke out in Macedonia. One of the most important factories of the region declared itself on strike "against the bureaucratic mafia", another would go "to the limit". The strikes would last 46 days.
In Summer 1985, on the announcement of a diminution of wages and of redundancies due to lack of activity, the port of Koper (the only big port in Slovenia) was paralysed. The strikers put themselves openly on an anti-union terrain, against class conciliation (the union had accepted the stabilisation plan). Faced with the radicalisation of the workers, the union collaborated with the police and the port administration in the hunt for "ringleaders". This strike was the beginning of a vast movement of social protest which paralysed the whole country.
In Slovenia, several big enterprises were paralysed by the strike, the workers tore up and burned their union cards. In Croatia, the strikes radicalised and the army took action to prevent the extension of the struggle. In many different regions, the proletariat occupied the roads to show solidarity with the strikers. The labourers of the ports of Split and Rijeka joined the movement, so paralysing foreign trade. The reaction of the bourgeoisie was rapid: the government of Slovenia authorised strikes on condition that the workers met and discussed with the unions and informed the management in advance.
A Yugoslav journal (Studensk List, 3.10.85) said:
"... The information which we have reported this summer that almost every day, in two of our enterprises, the workers were on strike... In considering the strikes of this summer, groups of top managers (who like to visit factories on strike) have expressed their concern at the course of new circumstances, which were absent in preceding strikes. This concerns particularly the fact that the labourers involved in the strikes are expressing their general discontent, not just demands proper to their enterprise. Concretely, the labourers who are on strike are telling the top bosses of the Republics and the Federation that they take issue with the way they run the country. ..."In 1986 a new attempt by the federal government to "close unprofitable enterprises" was launched. The unions tried to make the workers accept this restructuration plan in "enterprise management meetings". This governmental effort was refused en bloc by the working class: a new wave of strikes inundated the country.
The German newspaper Die Zeit of 17.1.86 reported the remarks of a metal worker:
"I can only smile at this theory that the strike actions were born suddenly out of some caprice or the suggestion which says that the idler and the loner are behind the work stoppages. Our patience is at an end. The working class no longer has anything to lose or to fear."To survive, many workers only worked three or four of the seven official hours and turned themselves into "peasants" the rest of the time. Some 60% of the inhabitants of Yugoslavia lived off agriculture while only 38% lived in the countryside. The others supplemented their wages by working on the black after their jobs, 40% of family income coming from this source. The reduction of the real wage reached impressive figures: more than 40%. The statisticians of the Ministry of National Economy observed at this time an important fall in the expenditures known as consumption.
In March 1986, the government of Milka Planic fell. The reason? The impossibility of effectively completing the IMF plan in the face of growing proletarian discontent.
The new government promised to freeze wages for 6 months and to increase prices, the response was not long in coming: strikes, demonstrations, occupations, sabotage... which changed the balance of forces. The proletariat imposed its conditions: a proof of its strength was shown in an 8% increase in real wages. At the same time, the strikes and sabotage translated into a generalised loss of profitability of capital across the whole territory of Yugoslavia.
The bourgeoisie had backed down in the face of proletarian strength but the necessities of its concrete conditions of capital accumulation obliged it to take up ready made antagonistic solutions. It was thus that the federal government elaborated, with the blessing of the IMF, a monetary reform which had the aim of eliminating the non-competitive enterprises (in withdrawing the support of the local banks), and devaluing the Dinar so as to cause a redistribution of revenue, that is to say a radical and relative increase of the rate of profit.
In the course of the Autumn of 1986, all the banks in Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo failed. The pressure from the workers was so strong that no local manager would risk confronting the workers by closing enterprises decreed as non-profitable. The situation deteriorated. The enterprises were no longer able to continue functioning and they were simply abandoned. Unemployment reached enormous levels. It is estimated that for 1986 the number of unemployed was 1.2m, inflation reached 130%.
This same year, gas and electricity were cut to more than a thousand families in the centre of Belgrade who couldn't pay their bills.
The proletariat reacted to the new austerity plan which foresaw the elimination of 35,000 jobs by the end of the year -it launched a massive struggle. In the countryside, agricultural proletarians armed with axes and shovels attacked the police and the big industrial businesses.
1987 and 1988 saw the protest movement radicalising -proletarians were no longer content with just opposing the successive austerity programs, they openly posed the question of power. The demonstrations and strikes broke out of the limits of the factory and the big industrial centres and called into question all aspects of life: work, "socialism", the family, bosses, leaders, the miserable workers' housing... The elementary capitalist conditions for a return to work did not exist, the strike was permanent.
This sharpening of direct action by our class in Yugoslavia fed itself in strength and extent on the development of a cycle of generalisation of proletarian struggles on a world level. In the countries of Central Europe and the East (the countries called "Communist") there developed simultaneously a wave of intensive struggle which called into question the social order and gave the alarm signal which brought about the politico-formal changes which would later take place at the head of these states, so as to better manage these "sick economies" and respond to growing social agitation.
In Summer 1986, the "Hungarian" miners declared a strike against redundancies. In Romania in 1987 several waves of struggle finished up with the mutinies of Brasov (November 1987). In Autumn 1987, strikes also broke out in Bulgaria -to give just one example, we can cite thaat of the Mezdra factory. In Spring 1988 in Poland, numerous strikes developed in opposition to the massive increases in food prices and in August of the same year a wave of strikes broke out that Walesa and Solidarnosc could only control with great difficulty.
At the end of February 1987, in response to an increase in the prices of various commodities (as much as 20% for some), a wages freeze and an intensification of work, several strikes broke out which were described as "wildcat" by the authorities. For a month and a half, there were some 80 strikes without warning in the whole of Yugoslavia, primarily in Croatia. Faced with this movement, the bourgeoisie responded with the usual repressive measures that it always uses in such circumstances: redundancies, not paying for strike days, threats of military intervention...
But at that point the movement continued to grow. After a short interruption at the beginning of the month of April that same year, in the coal field of Labin (Croatia), a strike developed which was the longest recorded in Yugoslavia since the Second World War: it lasted 30 days. The miners demanded the cancellation of all price increases, a 100% increase in wages and a change of mine management. The bourgeoisie, faced with the perspective of possible proletarian unity in struggle and particularly taking account of the fact that at that very moment in the North-West of the country and on the Adriatic coast proletarians were launching an open struggle, conceded a nominal wage increase of more than 40% (while the workers were demanding 100% to stop the strike at Labin) and dismissed various functionaries designated as responsible for the situation. But they could not stop the example of the Labin miners spreading, notably to Titograd and Kraljevo.
In the other regions, groups of workers met to coordinate their actions! Proletarians in a Bosnian steelworks founded a new communist party which was openly against "the corrupt trade union" and called for "the expropriation of property from the state and the Party".
Unfortunately, we have no more information about this attempt at centralising the struggle. Everywhere the protests were directed against "the governmental mafia" and the foreign banks. At the same time, more than 700 steel workers in Slovenia began a strike "against corruption and bad management" with a demonstration in front of the parliament of the Republic. In July in Vukovar, 10,000 workers in a shoe and tyre company went on strike, 5,000 of them went to Belgrade to demand the doubling of their wages and the head of the old director (at that time Minister for Foreign Trade). They called for the dismissal of the management as well as the whole of the town council of Vukovar.
At the same time, there were demonstrations in front of the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb. The expedition of Vukovar strikers to Belgrade (two other struggles renewed this action around the same time) constituted some sort of new departure in so far as it was the first time during this wave of struggle that proletarians organised themselves practically to go beyond regional limits. What's more, they went not only to shout out their demands to the highest levels of the state, but above all to appeal on the spot for unity with the workers of Belgrade. Such an action necessitates, on the part of proletarians, an important confrontation with the Republic by Republic containment undertaken by the unions. This initiative implied therefore the rough outline of a rupture with the prevailing nationalism.
Then the official press never spoke of strikes but only of "work stoppages" while saying that the Belgrade government had threatened to use tanks against the strikers in the absence of an immediate return to work.
At the end of May '88, in response to a new "redistribution of revenue" law adopted on the 15th of the month by the Federal Parliament in Belgrade and which would have led to a fall in wages of between 20 and 45% depending on the sector, the strike movement affected the sectors of mining and transport (in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia). More than 10,000 proletarians in struggle demonstrated in Belgrade "against the high cost of living".
In October of the same year, there were violent clashes between demonstrators and special police units. Some workers who wanted to march on Titograd to join in the demonstrations were stopped by the police. For two days the town was cut off by the special units. Twelve thousand proletarians participated in the demo. They called for "economic reform" and higher wages. This movement led to the resignation of the government.
Things went the same way in the "autonomous" province of Vojvodina where the government went in the face of pressure from the street, specifically threatening to bring in a State of Emergency. Finally, in December 1988, the federal government found itself obliged to resign after two years of open struggle against the working class.
The government, after a period of political crisis and incapacity on the part of the local bourgeoisie to control the workforce, reconstituted itself under the aegis of Ante Markovic, a Croat, nominated Prime Minister of the Federation. The central points of his program were the freeing of prices, the interests of credit and the adaptation of the Dinar to the necessities of the market (which meant its adaptation to its real value).
To this the proletariat responded with a new wave of strikes during the first months of 1989, calling once again for a 100% wage increase.
Up to the month of March '89, for several weeks, Kosovo was the theatre of more and more massive and violent struggles. All the towns of this "autonomous province" were affected by a wave of struggles analogous to those which had shaken Algeria a few months earlier. In this case as in the other, the most obvious symbols and representations of the state were seen as targets by the insurgent proletarians: police stations came under attack. At Podujevo, the police commander ("of Albanian stock"... but this didn't matter to the insurgents, he was still a cop!) was killed and to some extent everywhere the forces of order came under fire from the roofs of houses, trains were attacked, shops devastated...
The state (in its federal and provincial forms) replied by decreeing, from the first of March, a State of Emergency in the region, and, from the 27 March, by a curfew. The day after the day when the riots reached their paroxysm, that is to say the 28 March, the parliament of Serbia voted unanimously for the complete suppression of the autonomy of the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, with the double aim of allowing the proletarian revolt to be crushed more directly and of diverting it better (through anti-Albanian and anti-Serb nationalist polarisations) and thus recuperating discontent in Serbia itself.
This explosion of anger in Kosovo, was the culminating point of a wave of practically uninterrupted struggle which, since 1985, with its peaks and troughs, shook all sectors and corners of Yugoslavia.
In September 1989, 10,000 workers demonstrated in Belgrade and Skopje and threatened to launch a general strike if the federal government didn't stop inflation. The workers, who were already on strike, demanded that the German Mark should become the principle currency which they were paid in. The local bosses in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka for their part called, under pressure from the strikers, for a minimum wage of 1,000 DM.
In December 1989, 650,000 labourers from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia declared themselves on strike against the policies of the government and demanded an increase in wages of 100%. The enterprise bosses gave in and, contrary to government directives, granted the demands.
The multiple strikes accentuated still further the weaknesses of the Yugoslav economy. To give an idea of the level of struggles: in 1989 the rate of annual growth of retail prices was officially 1256%, the rate of annual growth of wages for the same period was 1595%! Thus, in the whole of the year 1989, real incomes increased by 25% (according to Notes & Etudes document No. 4920-r1). The analysts of this same review added: "... an evolution difficult to accept in an economy said to be 'in crisis'. Unemployment and a significant fall in living standards are the price to pay for stabilising the situation."
Firstly, there is the non-emergence of autonomous organisations of proletarians in struggle, and this despite the duration and intensity of the struggles and despite the fact of a certain amount of discontent with the official unions. But the critique of the unions was often limited to an opposition to the "union bureaucracy", reducing the critique to the question of a "bad leader" rather than the struggle against the counter-revolutionary nature of trade unionism. In consequence of this weakness in the critique of trade unionism, proletarians did not assume the tasks of self-organisation nor the classist actions of enlarging and centralising the struggle.
This weakness in the critique of institutions in terms of "bad unions", "incompetent politicians" or of "corrupt officials" proved to be useful to the state and more than one "individual bureaucrat" was thus thrown to the angry workers to protect the bourgeois class and capitalist social relations as a whole.
Another factor of weakness, which certainly constitutes an explanatory element in the first weakness which we mentioned above, was the weight of nationalism. In effect, the movement of struggle hadn't markedly broken with nationalist containment, even during the riots in Kosovo in 1989. In the context of Yugoslavia, where the national question is the weapon par excellence with which the state confronts the proletariat, every qualitative development has to immediately and absolutely set itself the task of an effective, conscious, break which takes on the forces of nationalist containment. If proletarian solidarity beyond the frontiers of the different republics found many an occasion for expressing itself in the course of hundreds of strikes and demonstrations, this solidarity never transformed itself into concerted, organised actions against the various nationalist forces! We therefore have to be prudent in using terms like "unitary" or "showing solidarity". The reality of the existence of numerous simultaneous strikes over several years is a fact. Nevertheless, the immediate expression of the unity of struggle and of perspective, beyond local solidarity, did not express itself in a consequent manner in terms of organisation and centralisation. Even in Kosovo, where proletarians took to the streets with arms to violently attack their misery, any potential for extension was castrated by the state which was very easily able to reduce the riots to a purely "Albanian" affair.
The economic crisis only declared itself openly in Yugoslavia in 1979. Until then, the specific mechanisms of "centralised planning" of the countries of the Russian bloc as well as the particularities of "self-management socialism" of Yugoslavia, allowed the Yugoslav economy to adapt itself to the consequences of the world crisis. But it is clear that the various factors (protectionism, centralised regulation) which can allow, and really have allowed, the effects of the world crisis of capital to be kept at bay in this region, can only delay an even more violent outbreak of the same capitalist contradictions later on. This is why, for revolutionary communism, "self-management" and "economic planning" are just illusions. They are myths which aim in the first place at drawing workers towards acceptance of their condition within bourgeois society and which in reality, beyond these pretensions and beyond the short-term variations in the forms that cover up exploitation, bring proletarians nothing but capitalist misery, with always more exploitation and war.
From the start of the '80s in Yugoslavia, the growth curves turned upside down, unemployment developed, foreign debt exploded, inflation ran away (until it attained a record rate of 2685% per year, in other words prices doubled every month!). At the start of the '80s, the first shortages of basic necessities also appeared: power cuts, petrol shortages...
"The fall in the standard of living was so great that it's hard to imagine another country which wouldn't have reacted to this situation by radical political changes or even by a revolution." (H. Lydall, Yugoslavia in Crisis - 1989, cited by Paul Garde in Vie et mort de la Yougoslavie.)During the whole of this period, the Yugoslav government tried to "accommodate" to the crisis situation, with austerity measures and programs of economic stabilisation, all under the aegis of the International Monetary Fund which was very attentive to the interests of capital invested in Yugoslavia.
But, as we have said already, from 1985 these measures provoked a massive response on the part of the proletariat which only added to the difficulties of the economic situation.
Among the later reforms, we can mention those of December 1989, introduced after new falls in the volume of Yugoslav industrial production, after a new increase in unemployment, the growth of shortages, inflation... and an "explosion" of wages following struggles. This new reform bore the marks of the crisis which would violently shake Yugoslavia less than a year later. While introducing these reforms to attack the proletariat head on, the Federal State affirmed at the same time its ascendancy over the constitutive republics of Yugoslavia. The new federal Prime Minister, Markovic, introduced a plan which foresaw the complete freezing of wages and a partial freezing of prices, the creation of a "new Dinar" (convertible and tied to the German Mark), a restrictive monetary policy (limitation of credit) and a new fiscal policy (big cuts in wages, increases in the budget of the central state). It is clear from these reforms that the state was looking for a way to stabilise the economy, in other words to reduce the part of value dedicated to wages and to impose increases in productivity by eliminating (by suppressing the various mechanisms of protection which share out the effects of international competition amongst all the enterprises, or, as Markovic said "to help the enterprises which give the best results and allowing the bad ones to take on the consequences of their lack of ability") the deficient enterprises (deficient in the sense that they were incapable of lastingly overturning the status quo in the opposition between the interests of the enterprise and the interests of proletarians). The federal government foresaw that 150,000 more people would find themselves without work after only a year of application of the new measures. At the same time, the official economic indicators already showed a fall of real wage income of 9% for the month of December 1989 and of 29% for the month of January 1990.
By these new reforms the Federal State affirmed its pretensions to dominate political and economic life in the various republics, together with its concern to control the social situation. This "centralist" solution (that we could also call "Serb" (1) in that it corresponds directly and for historical reasons to the interests of the bourgeoisie of that republic) already had the support of important sectors of Yugoslav society, for example within the army, within the various republics, including Slovenia and Croatia, but also internationally. But inevitably they noted that these draconian measures aimed at containing the antagonisms shaking Yugoslav society would be too late to enable the Federal State to survive. If under the effect of the crisis the bourgeois fractions of the various republics more and more saw their salvation in the affirmation of their independence in the face of the pretensions of the Federal State to suppress their sovereignty, it is above all by international intervention and notably by the imperialist policies of the Western powers that this "centralist option" became obsolete and that the usual game of nationalist confrontation in Yugoslavia set out on the path of armed conflict.
If it is clear that this question of the "autonomous republics" of Yugoslavia constitutes an ideological force of prime importance against the proletariat, we must make it clear, at this precise point in our analysis, that it coincides also and in part with the economic interests of such or such republic in particular and to the corresponding fraction of the bourgeoisie. Far from wanting to analyse their particularities as "particularisms" needed to lead proletarians on the basis of "specific tasks" as the extreme left of the bourgeoisie often advocate (as they're always looking for popularity and something to agitate about) we analyse them with the aim of throwing light on the complementarity and convergence of interests of the different fractions of the bourgeoisie faced with the necessities of confronting an internationalist proletariat which has no regional or national interests to defend.
It was above all this lack of adherence of proletarians to the national interest which had caused the capitalist state (in its various regional expressions, Croatian, Slovenian, Serbian, Bosnian...) to not step back from putting into place much more radical policies for the defence of its interests. These were draconian "crisis" reforms, "democratisation" (we use here the flag used by the bourgeoisie in its campaigns, to refer to the reinforcing of atomisation, of everyone for himself, of mortal competition between proletarians, of the reign of citizenisation and terror, briefly, to an advancing disintegration of the proletariat, to the reinforcing of the democratic terror proper to the generalised dictatorship of commodities) and nationalism, war (conscription, requisitioning, imprisonment and killing of those who resist, militarisation of the whole of society...). The Yugoslav nation revealed itself to be no longer adequate as a framework for effectively dealing with the proletariat in these regions. The unleashing of inter-imperialist war in this area allowed the world capitalist state to drown the class antagonisms which were tearing its society apart in generalised massacres in which proletarians killed each other, and thus to set out on a path offering a bourgeois solution to the crisis of over-production of value.
The second element is also paramount and is directly linked to the first in so far as it cannot escape from the historical context which it is a product of, but it is really subordinate to it. This is the exacerbated competition between the different bourgeois fractions who abandon themselves to a war without mercy so as not to be among the losers in the competition which opposes them in the world market (the universal law of value which punishes capitals in the non-profitable sectors by purely and simply devalorising them). Inter-bourgeois antagonisms always fall into second place in the face of the revolutionary appearance of the proletariat, in other words the different fractions of the bourgeoisie always start - on pain of being eliminated - to make an abstraction of their particular interests and to realise their common circumstances when faced with communism and their need to defend their supreme interest: safeguarding their world of money, wage-labour and commodities.
It is this exacerbation of conflicts of interest between the numerous bourgeois fractions and capitalist entities directly on the international level, where these antagonisms express themselves by the support of different powers for such and such a fraction existing on the territory of Yugoslavia and the Balkans, coupled with the general situation of lack of adherence of proletarians to the national economy, which was the basic cause of the inter-imperialist conflagration in Yugoslavia. We want to make it clear at this point (we will return to this later on) that the "military" phase of the explosion in Yugoslavia was directly approved and encouraged by the process of international recognition of independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and that therefore the orchestration of the war and of massacres between proletarians is not simply an expression of an internal Yugoslav crisis but corresponds to the direction given to this crisis by the Western imperialist powers. The situation can only be understood in relation to all the other countries of the region, including the West.
In Serbia, following the de facto dismemberment of the old Yugoslav Federation, the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", presented itself as the only inheritor of ex-Yugoslavia, proclaiming itself with Montenegro on 27 April 1992. In this republic, whose international isolation is growing, the situation is extremely tense: refugees flood in everywhere, huge numbers of young men have left the country to avoid conscription, the economy (2) has been transformed into an economy of day to day survival (a third of the economically active population is unemployed), misery and discontent reign.
The austerity measures put in place on 30 June 1992 in order to alleviate the effects of the international embargo foresaw amongst other things the partial freezing of prices "preceded by an increase of 116% in the price of petrol and 76% for electricity" (Le Monde, 2.7.92). This austerity plan aimed principally to "contain the discontent which threatened to turn into a social revolt" (idem). And in its propaganda the government habitually used the international blockade as a mobilising theme to forge national unity in the face of "the enemies of Serbia without" and to denounce and repress those who are "the enemy within".
The Serbian opposition tried to strengthen itself by recuperating the growing discontent of proletarians in general and the refusal of the war in particular by organising pacifist mobilisations from the beginning of the year. Starting in December '91, they called for elections so as to get rid of Miloševic, designated as responsible and a suitable whipping boy. But there was nothing to choose between these "opponents" and the bourgeois already in place and nothing to "differentiate" them, not even the slightest nuance. What's more, they were themselves the "old" political friends of Miloševic and only "divergent" by the need to present a credible "alternative". It didn't work and no bourgeois fraction is really credible: the last legislative elections, in the Spring of 1992, were marked by an abstention rate of more than 50%!
Faced with proletarian mobilisation, many opposition groups organised a demonstration in Belgrade on 9 March, 1991. It was in response to the first armed skirmishes between Serb and Croat forces in the town of Pakrac (in Slavonia, North Eastern Croatia) and thus they objectively participated in nationalist recruitment. But the demo didn't work out as expected, it overflowed its initial aims and transformed itself into class confrontations with the forces of order (proving that the proletariat, despite the power of nationalism, was still not beaten and that it continued against the current to defend its interests). The demonstration started to move through the suburbs of Belgrade (with the nationalists who were in competition with Miloševic, those of the Serbian Renewal Movement, at its head). But more and more it was joined by workers who had waited months for their wages to be paid, then the students, then the schoolkids and the unemployed. They shouted: "Give us freedom, give us bread" or even "Miloševic = Saddam, send him to the desert". When the demo reached the centre of Belgrade it was 100,000 strong. The police tried to stop the protest and to chase after the demonstrators who were armed with clubs and stones. A plain clothes policeman was killed. It is then that the demo led itself towards Republic Square, passing through the centre - on the way the banks and shops were attacked repeatedly in a very rapid fashion. Yugoslav and Serbian national flags were burned. Proletarians attacked the police armoured cars, the street fighting went on for hours, police cars were burnt and everywhere barricades went up. The police killed a demonstrator. In the evening the army had to intervene, 100 armoured cars crossed the town and occupied strategic points. The protest lasted four days until the army left. After this riot, the opposition parties pursued their negotiations with Miloševic and they decided together on a common policy of national unity.
Only 15% of conscripts responded to the call for mobilisation during Autumn '91: the refusal to turn up for military service was widespread and in order to counter this absenteeism it is now forbidden for any liable man aged under 30 to leave the republic without permission. In this situation, the state decided to extend, by decree in December '91, by three months the duration of military service for the recruits of '91 for "an indeterminate time, according to the needs [for cannon fodder!] of the Yugoslav Army" and fixing at 4 months the duration of mobilisation of army reservists. Military service was for 12 months and the reservists were mobilised beforehand between 45 and 60 days. These measures aimed to bring under control the problems of recruitment, the army admitted that more than 10,000 reservists had refused to join their units.
Repression against the deserters, and all those who struggled openly against the war and organised themselves accordingly, was put in place. The federal military authorities threatened the draft dodgers and deserters with long prison sentences according to Article 121 which set out penalties from a three years in prison minimum to the death penalty if the deserter left the country. Other deserters who hid after publicly refusing to be mobilised were grabbed off the street, imprisoned for 2 or 3 days, and the sent to the front to clear mine fields with the aim of killing or mutilating them! Numerous unidentified bodies were thus regularly buried at the front without anybody being able to tell where they came from, although this could also be the work of the death squads operating in Croatia who tracked down the deserters and opponents of the war and dumped the bodies of the anti-patriots they had assassinated at the front.
All over Serbia and Vojvodina young reservists hid themselves to avoid being conscripted: 25,000 "Hungarians" left the country to avoid conscription, more than 100,000 men did the same across the whole of Serbia. Everywhere young men of conscription age have chosen exile.
From this movement against the war an opposition emerged which organised itself OUTSIDE the official "opposition" parties, but, alas, nowhere near enough AGAINST them. Women proletarians played an important role in these struggles. Not being mobilised for the various fronts, they were the ones who were going to organise opposition to the war. It was also they who snatched their sons from obligatory conscription, who organised numerous groups circulating information about movements of desertion, who took charge of the legal defence of those who refused to fight. It was also they who took on "psychological aid" for soldiers who returned traumatised from the front. When the first regiments returned from combat in Slovenia (and the massacres that had happened afterwards in Croatia then in Bosnia) some talked about the Vietnam syndrome. Since then, for sure, the situation has deteriorated: "crazy acts" and suicides have multiplied. Some doctors saw nothing wrong with sending six soldiers with serious mental problems back to the front within 48 hours, after having threatened them with "punishment" if they continued their "irresponsible" behaviour.
But the refusal to go to war was far from just being individual, collective protests became more and more numerous without actually taking on the form of a declared resistance, of a clearly organised movement. Hardly a week passed without conscripts collectively resisting orders. The biggest refusal took place at Kragujevac, a garrison town in central Serbia, when 7,000 reservists presented themselves at the call up without their arms. They shut themselves up in their camps and refused to move. The military authorities exempted ALL OF THEM, but distributed to local employers an "infamy list" of all the "traitors to the country" who will find themselves forbidden to sell their labour power. In November 1991, 200 reservists stood in front of the office of the district president in Valjevo until their commander signed their military books stipulating that they had completed their service. On 18 December, at Markušica, on the front in Slavonia, 700 reservists refused to continue to fight after having already done their 45 days of recall. A general ordered the arrest of their officers, but backed down when the troops prepared to shoot him. At the beginning of January 1992, 150 reservists deserted as a group from the front at Osijek after spending more than a month on the front line and returned to Belgrade to protest at their conditions of life. In March 1992, more than 700 reservists on leave at Gornji Milanovac revolted and refused to return to the front in Eastern Slavonia, denouncing "the incompetence of the officer corps of the army and the unreliability of information coming from the front". At the same time 4 reserve officers were arrested in Belgrade after having abandoned the front and two others were sentenced to imprisonment in Niš, while thousands of reserve soldiers had to be brought before courts martial.
All these desertions and refusals to go to war, however contradictory these actions may have been (pacifism and the lack of perspectives for going beyond the immediate situation are the most marked weaknesses!), are nevertheless a clear proof that the national cohesion is not as strong as the bourgeois killers in each camp had hoped and that the proletariat is certainly not ready to leave for the front "with joy and gladness".
At the same time as the refusal of war on the military front, other manifestations of proletarian combativity burst out on the production front: strikes broke out in the course of which proletarians began to organise themselves, by force of circumstances, into "autonomous" structures. In the universities as well new opposition movements were born (we do not have any more information about this at present).
Before the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 100,000 people took to the streets in Sarajevo to protest against the war. In February 1992, important street fights took place between the federal army and the inhabitants of several towns in this republic. On 29 February 1992, under pressure from the EEC and the USA, Bosnia-Herzegovina organised a referendum for independence. On the same day barricades were constructed inside the town of Sarajevo by masked elements of the extremist militias of Serbia and Croatia. Armed confrontations took place in front of the barricades, 30,000 demonstrators demanded the removal of these "ethnic" barricades dividing their neighbourhoods.
At the beginning of April 1992, two big demos took place in Sarajevo. A hundred thousand people from Sarajevo and other towns in the area demonstrated against the war and for the dissolution of all the nationalist parties! Marksmen fired on the demonstrators, there were many deaths. The next day, 100,000 people again took to the streets and again marksmen fired on them. Following this, Sarajevo was completely cut off from the outside world. The town is subjected to permanent bombardment from outside. During this time in Sarajevo people organised themselves and defended their homes together. They barricaded the streets against the armoured cars and attacked them. The irregular soldiers fired on everything which moved.
As this war progresses and extends itself, relayed by a warlike and nationalist propaganda, and as the bombardments become more selective and as the repression targets its victims more and more "ethnically", we can see a more active participation by various strata of the population in war operations. The imperialist war therefore took the form of a "popular war" as the proletariat submitted to nationalist recruitment and dissolved itself into the people to enrol in the various nationalist fronts.
This evolution also took on the structure of the armed forces and the system of defence which the Yugoslav state had adopted (with all the military equipment, armaments, stocks, munitions and logistic support distributed over the whole territory) which is even favoured by nature because of the mountainous terrain with numerous villages with strong communitarian traditions implanted over the whole of this republic.
This reality also makes the situation more inextricable for any external intervention. Thus the declaration of General Barry McCaffrey, Assistant Chief of the Joint Forces Command of the US Army who estimated that it would take the United Nations 400,000 men and one year to bring an end to the violence in ex-Yugoslavia, without any guarantee that hostilities wouldn't commence as soon as the foreign soldiers left.
We are forced to admit that our class has suffered a severe defeat in Yugoslavia (and we are not referring just to sectors of the proletariat in Yugoslavia, but also just as much to other sectors outside the borders of Yugoslavia who are rendered accomplices of the state killers by their passivity!) and that many proletarians have deserted from class combat to join one of the imperialist camps present there. Lack of information does not permit us to pronounce on the strength of proletarians who continue to resist the war, the nationalist campaigns and the democratic propaganda so as to safeguard by their efforts internationalist classist perspectives. We know by experience that such nuclei can exist, resisting, surviving in such conditions of war. In this movement, these comrades crystallise the innate tendency of the proletariat to transform the imperialist war into a revolutionary war for communism.
In an international context of world crisis such as we are subjected to today, the exacerbation of antagonisms between the capitalist sharks is inevitable, and the aggravation of inter-imperialist tensions, the multiplication of war zones on the "natural" terrain where these antagonisms burst out openly (3), and this independently of the will of the various bourgeois fractions, constitutes our day to day reality. But the war is also here and now, and not just somewhere else or later on. The various capitalist fractions confront each other permanently and make war so as to conquer each others markets. While confrontation glides on the financial terrain, on the military terrain it does not change its nature, it is always a question of the same economic war indispensable to the survival of the system. Social peace must reign, whatever the price, productivity must be preserved. If this cannot be obtained by reforms and other austerity measures against our conditions of life and struggle, it will have to be obtained by force of arms (4).
We must not deceive ourselves - this war in Yugoslavia constitutes another step towards generalised war. In effect it is taking place in front of the eyes of the proletarians of Europe and elsewhere who smugly watch, in the successive and interminable episodes of this war on their little screens, a banalisation, a naturalisation of war. This is then conceived as the "normal" way out for any society in crisis. And the crisis is "natural" and "normal" as well, as are poverty, unemployment and the sacrifices that follow. What's more, without any question of objecting, you accept, you shrug your shoulders ("it's not so bad here", "what's the use in complaining?"), you bend your back and soon you will be ready to leave for the front...
This should be no surprise since the majority of proletarians across the world, and particularly in Europe, are imprisoned by patriotic walls and bourgeois ideology, they are prisoners of pacifism, of "anti"-imperialism or even still of "anti"-fascism and the international proletariat is not in a position today to affirm its revolutionary being as bearer of its own communist project.
As long as we remain passive consumers and spectators of our miserable lives, as long as we remain "useful idiots" for Capital, anything can be done to us and we should not be surprised if tomorrow good citizens start to kill each other for one reason or another!! Neighbour against neighbour, workmate against workmate, proletarian against proletarian.
The proletariat is against all the camps, against the Croat, Serb, Bosnian, Slovenian and Kosovar camps, against the "international community" which has never been anything other than a name for a gang of terrorist states which subjugate and exploit us day after day! The French, American, Russian, German, Italian, British, Egyptian, Iranian state... whichever they may be! We have no country! To be a patriot, is to murder our class brothers and sisters. To be a patriot is to be an assassin!
Our class solidarity with our brothers and sisters who struggle in ex-Yugoslavia is expressed first of all when we attack the bourgeois fraction that directly confronts us because in the struggle against "our own bourgeoisie" we practically affirm our internationalism, our identity of interest and struggle with proletarians in ex-Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Our internationalism doesn't consist in "doing something here for proletarians over there". Our internationalism is to be in the same fight, affirming there the community of interests and struggle which unites us with our class brothers and sisters. Fighting against "our own bourgeoisie" - this is the profound expression of our class solidarity, of our growing unity. It is the passivity which reigns here in the face of austerity measures dealt to us which permits the development of the war in ex-Yugoslavia.
The importance of this last point becomes all the more evident when we consider the practical connivance (despite all the declarations of intent) uniting all the fractions of the world capitalist state, whose different policies all objectively end up in the generalised massacre of our class brothers and sisters. The involvement of the imperialist powers in this war could not be clearer: together all fractions of the bourgeoisie concur in the pursuit of massacres. Apart from their role in the unleashing of the conflict by their consecration of the break up of Yugoslavia (recognition of the independence of Slovenia by Germany on 23/12/91 and of Croatia and Slovenia by the EC on 15/1/92); apart from the gigantic profits which they have made, as in every war, from arms sales; apart from the use of this war as a field of experimentation; apart from the hypocritical international embargo which primarily acts to encourage national unity in Serbia; apart from the useful propaganda which the war allows them to develop "at home", "in defence of the values of the free world", against "human folly" (a pole of repulsion horrifyingly waved under the noses of proletarians "elsewhere"), the war in ex-Yugoslavia plays, as we have seen above, the role of a terrifying Bogeyman: "What are you complaining about? Be content with what you have, otherwise..." and the austerity measures can be piled on without meeting any resistance. To intervene on the territory, France, Germany, Belgium, Russia, the USA, the NGOs, the UN... cheerfully play the "peace keeping" card. Because, as always, it is in the name of defending civilisation against barbarism, in the name of keeping the peace that slaughter is perpetuated. The more they talk to us about peace, the more war rages!
The humanitarian campaigns operate on the terrain of direct repression of the proletariat. In Bosnia-Herzegovina it is in the name of peace, in the name of signed accords, in the name of the UN, that they have forced proletarians to hand over their arms and to wait passively, like beasts, for the hour of their slaughter in the abattoirs that are the fields of battle. The same scenario has been put into place in Iraq.
The humanitarian business directly favours the war. Not only does "humanitarian aid" give a good alibi to the imperialist powers to intervene in a country (Somalia, Rwanda etc.), not only does it directly serve the "ethnic cleansing" operations in the territories (deportation of proletarians to other areas and camps), but on top of this, the "humanitarian aid convoys" allow the fighters of the various warring imperialist fractions to be fed while an international blockade -another specifically modern form of intervention- only attacks the living conditions of proletarians by depriving them of essential commodities and making all goods on the local market more expensive!
The peace plans are nothing but the consecration by the "international community" of what is happening on the ground. What is happening on the ground is deportations, malnutrition and famine, epidemics... briefly, everything that follows from the unleashing of state terror.
We do not fight for "peace", we are not pacifists! Peace is only a particular moment of war. We do not want a capitalism purged of its "defects", of its "bad side", of its wars, its famines, its poverty. We do not fight for the amelioration of this world. We fight for its complete destruction, its total annihilation!
The bourgeois state persecutes all those that it denounces as "troublemakers", "agents of the enemy", that is to say all those who oppose themselves to it, to its social peace and its Sacred Union. The maintenance of its domination over society requires only the weakness of the proletariat and rests essentially on the capacity of the state to divide proletarians, to keep them imprisoned in bourgeois polarisations (which is where ideological mystifications are important), and to repress without mercy any manifestation of struggle against exploitation, in other words it's very essence. This war is not a war of Serbs against Croats, of Croats against Muslims etc. It is the war of one class against another, it is the war of the bourgeoisie which wants to crush its mortal enemy which is neither Serb nor Croat nor Muslim but international, the world proletariat.
Proletarians of all lands, unite! Rich in the historic experience of our class, we reappropriate our collective memory of struggle. Our fight carries real perspectives of life, we want to destroy forever non-life, misery, exploitation, war!
Against the sectarianism and the mistrust towards any attempt at organising militancy, towards any attempt to bring to life a centralised direction for revolutionary activity, we denounce the nationalists, the UN and other imperialist powers, we spread information, support internationalist comrades, clarify and take on the objectives and the means of communist struggle.
The publication and distribution in different languages of this text constitutes an attempt at centralising our activities, at entering into contact with other revolutionaries, at consolidating the camp of those who defend internationalist perspectives, at expressing the needs of proletarians who revolt against war and misery, and to reinforce, by the clarity of our perspectives of struggle and by our determination, the impact of our refusal.
2. We can judge the situation by these eloquent figures, which express the tragic reality which our class is subjected to today behind their cold calculation. In mid-June 1993, the Dinar was devalued (in fact its rate of exchange was aligned with the black market): from 1DM for 68,000 Dinars to 1DM for 700,000 (!) Dinars, more than ten times, without wages increasing in the same proportion. In mid-August, the National Bank, incapable of printing enough money to fill the gap and to appear to pay the meagre wages of the proletarians still working, issued a new note for... 500 million Dinar. A junkie like this soon needs more drugs, he injects a new, bigger dose scarcely 15 days later: a new note for... 1 billion Dinar is issued. Finally, three weeks later, it is a note for... 10 billion Dinar which must be printed as quickly as possible. If the price rises paid by proletarians during the first 8 months of 1993 carry on at the same rate, the experts (!?) foresee an annual inflation rate of... 1,671,000,000%. To carry on the anecdote, each hour the Dinar loses 1% of its value relative to the DM. The waltz of the price labels became hallucinatory, the prices are posted up today in billions of Dinar while in 1992 inflation was "only" 20,000%. At the beginning of September 1993, bread, milk and other foodstuffs "of primary necessity" are rationed in almost all the towns of Serbia and Montenegro. Anyway, basic products have disappeared from the shops whose windows are virtually empty. People die in the hospitals for lack of adequate medicines. The bourgeoisie have to admit that, according to their norms, "90% of the population live below the poverty threshold". The most effected are the retired who it is no longer rare to see competing with stray cats and dogs for the contents of dustbins. This is the situation which the proletariat is reduced to, with the ease with which the bourgeoisie can impose it by force in a period of war! Miloševic wasn't joking when he said that the sanctions and the blockade offered to Serbia "the occasion for restructuring its economy"!
3. Without giving an exhaustive list we can cite Rwanda, Somalia, numerous ex-Soviet republics, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, North Korea, Yemen (North and South), Haiti, Burma, India, Tibet, Mozambique, Angola, Algeria, Indonesia, Liberia etc. etc.
4. The path to armed conflict is only another form of the permanent competition that takes place without mercy between the capitalists and of the struggle which they simultaneously wage against the proletariat.
The first issue of the central review of the ICG in German
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In December 1994, our group published KOMMUNISMUS No.1, the first issue of the new central review of the ICG in German.
This review represents a new step in the framework of the efforts of our international and internationalist group to reinforce the organic centralisation of the proletarian struggle even in this period of victorious counterrevolution.
Of course, the publication of this review is only a small step forward in this gigantic fight, and the ICG is determined to give a continuity to the efforts made in this direction.
We call on the Internationalist Revolutionaries to contribute to this important historical task.
Read, distribute, KOMMUNISMUS.
* * *
Diktatur des Proletariats für die Abschaffung der Lohnarbeit
As our text on the war in Yugoslavia and the struggles taken up by the proletariat against the permanent degradation of their conditions of life went to press mutinies broke out in certain sectors of the Serbian army, confirming that even in the worst situation of counter-revolution our class continues to be the only viable alternative to the horrors of capitalism. The information which we have obtained from that war zone is very fragmentary but we can nevertheless give a glimpse of the strength of the proletariat, at any rate the subversive character which it contains and the social contradiction which it carries and which undermines all institutions, including those made up of the "reliable" and "loyal" troops of the bourgeoisie.In the Serb bastion of Banja Luka (North Western Bosnia) three elite units, the First Army Corp of Krajina, the 16th Motorised Unit and the First Armoured Brigade, launched a mutiny on their return to the front on 10 September. The "Serbian" - in such a moment of confrontation nationality is dissolved! - mutineers entered the town with their arrmoured cars and took control of the main official buildings, notably the local radio and TV stations, the town hall and the Head Quarters of the army! The rebels immediately gave themselves a leadership, an "emergency general staff", baptised "September 93", led by non-commissioned officers and subalterns. At its head could be found a corporal!
Their demands were: an increase in their "miserable pay" (the equivalent of 1 Dollar per month for the ordinary soldiers), the arrest of "war profiteers, who instead of being on watch in the trenches are getting rich with the blessing of those in power, leading an easy life at the rear, sometimes in fashionable circles". A "black list" of 700 of these "profiteers" was drawn up and arrests began. That same evening the mayor of the town had the honour of opening the dank dungeons. For a month before the soldiers, nothing more than proletarians regimented in the uniform of the fatherland, had denounced their conditions of non-existence and threatened repeatedly to "turn their rifles on those in the rear!", in their own words. With each period of leave they feared returning to find their families reduced to desperation. A desperation which even their own death could not erase. The payment lavished on their families by the state wasn't even enough to cover the costs of burial!
This movement revealed the profound social fractures which developed as the war dragged on. Here, it is clear that the union sacrée was BLOWN APART. All the "appeals for calm and reason" were in vain. From that moment the bourgeoisie imposed a prudent silence which said much about their fears of stoking the fires of class struggle. The bourgeois had to recognise "their obsession with seeing the awakening of Serb-Serb conflicts the like of which had never been seen throughout history". Behind this journalistic verbiage in Le Monde the bourgeoisie tried to hide the spectre which haunts them, their terror at seeing proletarians taking up their real arms, class against class, against this nightmare.
In fact the mutineers took the town into their hands with the support of other proletarians. They were the formal and focused expression of a profound movement of discontent. In the town the situation was "calm", no more shots rang out in the night. That is to say that the state did not dare or no longer had the means to send "reliable" troops to put down the rebellion. The "Rambos" on duty who always appeared on the front pages of the newspapers disappeared from the boulevards, swept away by the mutiny. For the first time in several months Banja Luka had an uninterrupted electricity supply. The insurgents seized the power stations and began to provide for the region which they controlled. Against all the sacrifices imposed by the bourgeois and their war economy the proletarian defeatists of Banja Luka IMPOSED IN THEIR ACTS AND BY FORCE the immediate satisfaction of our basic needs!
Very quickly, on the announcement of the mutiny in Banja Luka, numerous proletarians in various brigades of the Bosnian Serb army sent telegrams of solidarity. Thanks to this support the mutineers declared that they wanted to take control of ALL these units. Alas, it is not with fine phrases that you generalise a movement: declarations and telegrams of solidarity are not enough. Behind the words are the acts which matter. If the proletariat wants to definitively rid itself of the butchery which has massacred it for more than two years in the region the one and only solution is the GENERALISATION in acts of revolutionary defeatism. We must finish with "Serbs", "Croats", "Muslims" and other categories with which Capital tries to crush us. The development of struggle has its own requirements: it must break social cohesion not only in the units of the army but in the whole of society. For this it needs to finish once and for all with nationalism in affirming loud and clear that proletarians have no interest in this war, nor in this dying world. We call for ONLY ONE WAR, that which is against our exploiters, whether they are Serbs, Croats, Muslims or whatever. Against them there should be no mercy. To show any would be a sign of weakness.
Improving our conditions of life -and even GOING BEYOND them- can only be imposed by a generalisation of the balance of forces that the mutineers of Banja Luka were only able to establish in too local a fashion. In fact generalisation means directly attacking and destroying everything which represents the State. Proletarians from various units solidarising with the mutineers contented themselves with declarations of intent when the situation DEMANDED something else: not only PASSING openly into the camp of insurrection but also ACCELERATING this by a radicalisation of demands and globalising them to put an end to the butchery. The situation called for the arrest of their own officers, for the use of their arms to attack the State etc...
Words have never made any difference to our misery!!!
The situation now is characterised by a state of general weakness of our class across all the struggles going on in the world. There is a lack of continuity, of liaison and of extension. Wherever struggles break out, some strikes, some riots in separate places, and Capital manages to maintain this separation, there, as it happens, is where the community of misery and struggle can be found! While at Banja Luka the mutineers showed that they had lost when they began to accept the view that their demands could only be realised by the state, in Lithuania other soldiers mutinied. By this type of action proletarians bring more and more to the fore our only response as a class faced by wars of extermination: revolutionary defeatism, the refusal to march along with the plans of nationalism, to be sacrificed for "their" new country! Wherever the bourgeoisie is able to dragoon citizenised and atomised proletarians into this mass called "the people" our class sooner or later raises its head! Elsewhere, the Banja Luka mutiny might well have been "the first movement of soldiers' rebellion among the Bosnian Serbs since the start of the war" (as the whole of the media like to proclaim it) but it was not the first manifestation of proletarian defeatism against this conflict (see the numerous examples in our main text (1).
Despite the weaknesses seen the contagion of the Banja Luka mutiny nevertheless gains ground. On 14 September the newspapers announced that not only had the mutineers hardened their movement but that defeatism had extended to other units such as the garrison town of Sokolac near Sarajevo.
Riven with contradictions, the mutiny now balances between its strengths and its weaknesses. The proletarians fall into the trap set by the professionals of interminable discussion. More and more the mutiny is emptied of its subversive content and reenters the hellish cycle of negotiations, proposals, counter-proposals, accords and other rubbish of the same type which changes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING concerning their intolerable conditions of misery. Little by little the insurgents came to find a place in the grand permanent spectacle of bourgeois politics. After some immediate demands aimed at improving their lot, the proletarians came to be poisoned by politicism and blamed their misfortunes on one faction of the State as opposed to another. In the quagmire of negotiations the insurgents forgot their strength in calling for the resignation of the nationalist government of Karadzic. At the same moment they allowed back in through the side window what they had kicked out of the front door: they called for... the anticipated general elections. Until then they had relied on their own weapons - strikes, defeatism - in order to impose the improvement of their conditions of life, then they gave way and submitted to the electoral circus.
Profiting from these weaknesses, the State succeeded, after an initial period of impotence, in returning the movement to a strict framework of negotiation in order to avoid being outflanked. The objective was to reduce it to a particular situation, to reabsorb it and empty it of all subversive content. For such and such a unit the question of soldiers' pay was to be played for in negotiations, for another it was the dismissal of certain "corrupt" officers or politicians, etc.... It was the beginning of the end. The mutineers no longer even dared to affirm their superiority in the face of the almighty State. None of the various negotiators of high rank who successively came to parley with them were taken hostage, something which would have clearly expressed the seriousness of their demands. No, once under way, the negotiations developed according to the classic schema of pacifism and conciliation. Parliamentarism and negotiations became the real terrain on which the whole force of the bourgeoisie could be successfully imposed. The movement was prolonged for more than a week. But on both sides there was the status quo. After having tried in turn, threats, flattery and appeals to patriotism, the bourgeoisie were quite obviously banking on a deterioration of the movement. The time and lack of perspective of proletarians had strengthened the bourgeoisie.
They tried to play for time and to "justify" the demands, but not the methods, of the mutineers. In taking on board some of their demands the bourgeoisie tried to fix the movement while letting it decline. They thus hoped to put off proletarians by isolating the most combattive, by accusing them of being "traitors". They appealed to them to go back to barracks, all the while waving the flag of "the fatherland in danger". Stigmatising the revolt as "helping our enemies" they made a vigorous appeal to the patriotism of the mutineers as the fighting redoubled its violence in Krajina.
In line with parliamentary logic the mutineers had scaled down their demand for "energetic measures against war profiteers". And who was this addressed to and demanded of!? To the State, to those who are the most important representatives of the class which LIVES off war: the bourgeoisie. Despite the fact that they affirmed that the existing MPs "are not fit for their jobs" which they abuse "to enrich themselves" their "black list" never included those that they negotiated with! This was another of these proletarians' contradictions.
Once destabilised and worn out the mutiny gave up its arms and fell under the two-pronged assault of promises and repression. The state awarded to the mutineers, who had repudiated their struggle, 10 days leave and a promise to satisfy their social demands, while a selective repression struck the principal leaders of the mutiny. The arrests were the final response of our enemies.
The continuation of capitalist butchery and the return to the diplomatic game (the negotiations in Geneva) could only be imposed when the proletariat was beaten!!! "For a new Geneva, calm must reign in Banja Luka!" The bourgeoisie have always known the art of running war like they run peace in their best interests - to pacify us, to lead us dociley to the killing fields, to the factory!!! Benefitting from all the weaknesses of the mutiny, from its lack of extension, from the democratic poison which corrupted it, the State crushed it to temporarily restore social peace and relaunch the war on the battle fields.
Despite the pitiless critique that we must direct against the weaknesses and expressed limits of this mutiny, communist militants shed light on such acts that show us that defeatist minorities are alive and well. Such actions express the point of view of the whole of our class. Tomorrow revolutionary defeatist mutinies will make the qualitative leap which involves the liaison and organisation of the struggle against the war WITH THEIR CLASS BROTHERS AND SISTERS on the other side of the vile frontiers imposed on us by Capital.
But already today the resistance of proletarians in Banja Luka proves
to us that the proletariat is never completely ready to be massacred in
some new capitalist butchery without turning a hair. Nor to accept sacrifices,
austerity, misery, death...
Class solidarity with the revolutionary defeatists of all camps!
Lets turn our guns against our generals, against our own bourgeoisie!
General characteristics of the struggles of the present time
This short text is an attempt to synthetize the general features of today's struggles, without going into specific details. Although it cannot be applied to every moment of struggle, this kind of outline is very useful as a base for the international rules which orientate the actions of the proletariat's vanguard minorities.
There is no doubt at all that Capital, whenever it can, "deals" with the proletariat sector by sector in clear accordance with its general tactic of dividing the proletariat. In this context, the unions and other apparatuses of control and division of proletarians manage to maintain social peace by limiting struggles to "strikes" and "demonstrations". Not only do these "struggles" fail to challenge social peace, but the historic party of counter-revolution (Social Democracy in all its forms) uses peaceful strikes and demonstrations as the way par excellence to channel and exhaust proletarian energy.
In talking about these things we don't just want to refer to partial work stoppages for which prior notice is given and a fixed period of time is specified, something which can only delight the bosses. We want to talk just as much about "strikes" (4) which are organised by the unions with some degree of radicality (even to the point of violent action, often considered to be the action of "combative" trade-unionists) but which, in general, fail to break fundamentally with social peace as a result of their corporatism, localism and the fact that they are confined to a particular social category, placing particular demands on such and such a boss or municipal or national authority. This is generally expressed by the decision of "all the workers" to prevent those from outside the workplace from becoming involved. In other words, it is expressed by the unopposed right which the unions have to run a "struggle" which cannot be a proletarian struggle against Capital, but simply an expression of particularism and, on a global level, an expression of bourgeois competition. On the other hand, the force of the Proletariat finds itself channelled into demands which do not fundamentally attack the rate of exploitation (they conduct themselves in a responsible way with regard to "the needs of the national economy") and/or they put up barriers between the workers from such and such a sector and those from others. Obviously, in countries where capitalist competition develops on the basis of separatist, nationalist or even racist struggles these cards are played in augmenting divisions between proletarians.
As for demonstrations, the principle is the same. Even though such and such a radical expression is allowed, well-controlled peaceful marches for pacifying demands and which generally benefit from the complacency of the forces of order have no other function than making a fake protest or diverting and wasting the workers' energy (5).
With the development of Capital this type of practice became solidified, acquiring a veritable certificate of citizenship in all the capitalist organisations which are more or less stable. Very early on, from the birth of the proletariat, trade-unions and other apparatuses of the State appeared along with workers' associations (as a recuperation of these associations or as direct creations of the bourgeoisie). They varied enormously between countries but they all had the task of limiting "by the workers themselves" struggles in order to transform them into their opposite (6). In time, all the mass permanent workers' associations were recuperated and transformed into apparatuses of state domination. This is a tangible manifestation of the impossibility of peaceful coexistence between the interests of capital and those of proletarians. Contrary to what is affirmed by all the trade-unionists and social democrats in general (including the Maoists, the Trotskyists and the Guevarists who support the unions, not as struggling for the historic interest of socialism but because they defend the immediate interests of proletarians), even the immediate interests of the proletariat cannot be defended without confronting Capital and therefore the State.
While the unions consolidated their place on the side of the police and the army in their function as an apparatus for wiping out our struggles, the same practices which drive these organisations, that is to say assemblism, partial work stoppages and controlled "strikes", peaceful demonstrations... made themselves into an indispensable practice for the maintenance of bourgeois order.
What are the consequences of this process from the point of view of the two antagonistic classes? From the point of view of Capital, is there anything more normal? It is the very process in which Capital affirms and demonstrates its omnipotence and its pretention to being everlasting, recuperating everything which yesterday was opposed to it, coopting the people, the apparatuses, the organisations, the orders, the forms of struggle in order to put them at its service.
And from the point of view of the proletariat?
If before, when they heard the word "strike", almost all the proletarians felt concerned, if, in whichever town, village, factory or district, proletarians got together because life itself was the collective life of the class, if, during a few decades therefore, the life of the exploited contained everyday discussions about conditions of life, of struggle, if everywhere and however heterogeneous the class consciousness might have been, they discussed the evils of this society, the necessity of destroying capitalism, attacking the state, constructing a society without exploited and exploiters... it is undeniable that over the course of the last few decades all this has disappeared. The proletariat itself seems to no longer exist on a world level (7). In everyday life, the only things which seem to exist are individuals, the rich, the poor, the ministers, the unemployed, the delinquents, the nationalists, the terrorists, the citizens, the peasants, the intellectuals, the feminists, the students, the voters, the ecologists... The intellectuals in the service of the dominant class and/or of the old stupid ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, who speak about the disappearance of the proletariat, are not just telling lies to delight the world bourgeoisie, they are also expressing a partial aspect of a reality to which we, proletarians, are subjected.
The proletarians themselves do not feel that they are proletarians. This lack of consciousness is that of not even knowing that they are part of the same class. This one believes that he is superior to the proletarians because he wears a tie and works in a bank. This one believes himself to be a poor peasant and this other unemployed. This one believes that her mission in life is to struggle for feminism, others involve themselves, on various levels, in capitalist struggles which are racist (including the anti-racists), nationalist, anti-imperialist... And, finally, they are not even gathering, talking about life, about the world as proletarians. In the cafes, people only talk about football... and the majority of proletarians don't even go to the cafes any more. Proletarians are almost completely wiped out as human beings, and during the few hours left from wage-slavery they remain just as spectators. The combination of TV and video has completed the historic work of the state in putting on an even higher plane the liquidation of the proletariat and its dilution into individuals and families. After eight hours imprisoned at work and eight hours passed in sleeping to recover his strength to return to work, the proletarian is equally today a prisoner in the eight hours that remain.
Capital does everything that it can to attain the ideal apogee of this process by achieving a society where it is no longer menaced by its historic enemy, where the only people living are producers/good-citizens and, where possible, humanoids, useful idiots for reproducing society without asking any questions. All sectors of economic activity and research work for the realisation of this idealist goal. At the factory and in the office they replace people by assembly-line workers and then by machines. Computers and robots ideally tend towards a world where all human life has been replaced by artificial equipment. And biology, genetics and insemination research have the same objective: the creation of a "person" who isn't one, a "person" who has been programmed for this society that is to say for Capital.
As long as this humanoid doesn't leave the laboratory, as long as they are not able to produce a human body which creates value without ever protesting (8), a genetic body whose capacity for revolt has been completely removed, they will try to approach this with the greatest possible help of instruments of collective cretinisation which are video, TV, computer games, elections, drugs... and for all those who refuse there are all those psychiatric wards, prisons, asylums, tranquillizers, wars, viruses, nuclear accidents etc... And, as if this dehumanisation of the human being is not enough, they promise that soon there will be games with virtual images in which you can "really enjoy yourself" (9) with a "virtual partner", "travel around the world", "fight face to face with someone from another continent"... and all always without leaving your four walls.
It is certainly true that the successes of our enemies are considerable. Subordination is very deep, confusion is general, there is collective cretinisation and more of these than ever before. And nevertheless, the proletariat is not dead.
It is also certain that it doesn't manifest itself like in the past, on an everyday level, with hundreds of permanent associations, with networks of solidarity, with international and internationalist groups, with a workers' press linking proletarians on all continents... But, when it expresses itself, it does so in a way which is directly violent and generalized.
In effect, while strikes organised by the unions are no longer credible, while the national political system and its electoral games are no longer attractive like they were in the past (in times when people still believed that a parliamentary party or a government could change the situation), while peaceful demos and other strolls for such and such a partial demand have lost their charm... while the old state mediations have lost their capacity to act as safety valves,... the proletariat, which is supposed to be dead and buried, surges forwards ever more explosively, without accepting mediations, without being stopped by little strikes, peaceful demos, or promises of elections.
The more the non-existence of structures of containment of the proletariat is clearly affirmed, the more they take it as given that the proletariat has disappeared for ever, the greater is the surprise when generalised revolts develop in one or several or all the towns of one or several countries. To mention only the most important revolts, we can cite Venezuela, Algeria, Morocco, Romania, Argentina, Los Angeles...
It is clear that these examples differ greatly in depth and duration of the challenge to bourgeois order. We have already had occasion to analyse this in our publications, but this text is not supposed to deal with the analysis of these differences nor with the comparison of these situations but, on the contrary, with the description of their common traits.
So, for example, in our enumeration we don't cite the case of Iraq. This is not because we are not able to see the aspects of force which you can see in the majority of proletarian revolts today but, on the contrary, because in the course of the last ten years that country has known a real continuity of proletarian associationism, the action of communist groups and the presence of proletarian banners. This continuity which is exceptional and against the current of the period, creates a situation of class struggle in this country largely beyond the general schema that we are trying to draw up in this article. Without being able to see in advance to what level the situation in Iraq can contribute to a generalized and global supersession of the current level of class struggle, we can affirm that this supersession needs certain elementary conditions for it to happen. The principal condition is the receptivity of the world proletariat to things which happen in parts of the world where fundamental class battles are developing. In relation to this, we can see an enormous weakness of the proletariat which also translates into enormous difficulties for it to make its struggle known, to push other sectors of the world proletariat to take action about this situation. These difficulties also find a particular expression in the immense difficulty for us, internationalist proletarians, to centralize international direct action in this direction (10).
These explosions are characterized by the firm and violent action of the proletariat which occupies the streets and violently confronts the whole state apparatus. In a streak of lightning, the streets are swarming with people, and the action is generalized in a flash. The direct occupation of the streets tends to break violently with all the categories into which capital divides proletarians : the narrow confines of the factories, mines or offices smash into pieces. Unemployed, women condemned to housework by capital, elderly people, children... are unified in direct action.
These revolts generally break out without precise and explicit aims and rarely put forward anything positive. Most of the time, they start with a general claim: "We can't bear anything more!" which expresses at the same time economic, political and social needs. "We can't bear any more repression and police control", "No, this price rise is uncalled-for", "Against the police state and the government party", "We want to eat", "We can't continue to tighten our belts to live", "We refuse the rise in the cost of such and such bare necessities"... are broadly the elements which reassemble the unified proletarian action. This is not a particular feature of the present period. In the whole history of our class, massive and violent revolts concentrate these collective negations of such and such an action of Capital and state. The fact which might characterise the present period is that there is no visible quantitative progression before the explosion, that before the saturation point of the proletarians' discontent is reached there is not a whole set of important partial struggles. On the contrary, the present period is precisely characterized by this reaffirmation of the existence of the proletariat, so fleeting that, beyond these moments, it seems that the proletariat is ready to accept everything, and that capital itself is surprised by the lack of resistance aroused by its criminal austerity measures (12).
By the very fact of the absence of daily reaction to the different attacks of capitalism, the latter is encouraged to go further and it effectively puts the proletariat in a desperate situation. Never has the international proletariat been so roughly treated, so subjugated to such unbearable conditions, so stuck in an impasse... Never has it been in such dire straits. This is another important characteristic of today's struggles which leads to a real explosion of anger because the proletariat is really put in a desperate, unbearable position.
The economy has always sacrificed human beings, as Marx pointed out. But never before have the needs of human beings been renounced so flagrantly in the name of business interests and national competitiveness. Never in history has there been so little protestation as nowadays against the absolute power of the state. Never have such clear and open demonstrations of the inhumanity which runs this society engendered so little indignation. This is the same logic which now leads to explosive situations : the proletariat bears much more than the unbearable, much more than all that we could imagine until now, and then inevitably it comes to a point where we can't objectively stand it any more whatever the lies and tales they try to spin us... Consequently the explosion is inevitable.
The very fact that the struggle takes the form of an unstoppable conflagration determines an important element of force: the surprise effect. This paralyses the enemy which has not the slightest idea of how to react (13). The old reformist social democrat has no effect on the violent and decisive action of the proletariat. Trade-unionism itself is absolutely unable to answer and to take control of the generalization of proletarian violence. The different regional structures or the divisions in districts, social services and the different state services of social mediation find themselves totally overwhelmed. The absence of concrete demands makes their reformist and liquidating task towards the movement much more arduous. If they stand in front of the proletariat, it -literally- runs over them. This absence of positive demands and the participation of the proletariat as a class, not as one or several categories, are precisely the elements of strength of the movement: the opposition to everything which comes from the state, the negation of everything which belongs to this dominated existence (this aspect has always been criticised by the left wing of the bourgeoisie), vindicates, in fact, the communist revolution.
The protagonists themselves take advantage of this unexpected effect. The generalized non-communication which normally dominates during periods of social peace, the supreme individualism which governs daily life, the "everyone does what he likes in his own home" will be smashed into pieces by the direct action in the streets (even if this is only true among an avant-garde minority and if it only happens in moments of open struggle). All those who take part in these movements discover a solidarity unknown until then, and they are surprised by the unselfishness which reigns over the barricades and also by the extraordinary efficiency that structures action. Moreover, they discover in this neighbour whom they never greeted, in this colleague whom they all regarded as an idiot, in this friend who could only talk about football... a comrade who fights side by side with them.
Each time the police stations, the HQs of government parties, the unions and other state apparatuses (supplies offices, official administrative HQ, Courts...) are attacked and burnt. Direct action is used against the government representatives and the more or less covert collaborationists are chased away. In some cases, prisons are attacked and prisoners liberated. Regardless of the more or less diffuse class consciousness of the protagonists, this demonstrates not only the reconstitution, the existence, of our class but also the general antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeois state as a whole.
There is indisputably another element of strength in these proletarian revolts: the expropriation of bourgeois property which is more or less organised by avant-garde groups. By sweeping away the ancestral prejudices and challenging state terrorism (14), proletarians take what they need and try thus to destroy all the mediations which they are condemned to by capital: money, wages, work, etc... For the first time, many of them really eat what they like and most of those who take part in the revolts eventually treat themselves to what they always dreamed of without having to pay for it: a TV set, a heater, an eiderdown or a silk suit. For once they celebrate, they drink without restriction (and the drinks are less spoiled than usual when they can't afford them because of their prohibitory prices), they eat what they like leaving previous daily deprivation aside, they dance, they sing, everyone's celebrating !
While this elementary affirmation of proletarian interests against bourgeois property takes place -a fleeting affirmation of human life announcing that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat against this society of deprivation, war, and death is possible and necessary- the first organizational problems arise. On the barricades, in the districts where the police dare not enter, action groups organise themselves (15) and the criteria come up for discussion: criteria for action, criteria for sharing out, for using violence, for selecting the shops to break open, the forms of self-defence to use...
All these protests, these struggles, these lootings... express a real tendency to assume, in an embryonic way, the civil war towards which capital pushes us. Very often the soldiers and/or policemen sent to establish the morbid order of capital refuse to shoot and join the struggling proletarians.
Once the bourgeoisie gets over the surprise produced by the violent extension of the movement, it prepares its counter-offensive whose key note is always the same: to separate the majority of the proletarians from their vanguard. That division relies on the real limits of the movement, on the real division that takes place in the midst of the proletariat between those who are actively involved in the struggle and those who are opposed to it. The power of bourgeois ideology is so strong that even in those intense and acute moments only a minority will participate in direct action. Proletarian sectors, more dominated by trade-unions or political bourgeois parties, not only refuse to participate but also oppose themselves to those practices and are ready to accept the official version of the events (or the version of the parliamentary opposition which always corresponds to the previous one when it is the matter of confronting the proletariat in struggle).
Based on this principle, all apparatuses of fabrication of public opinion then play their decisive role in the institutionalisation of lies: only what is convenient to the police is broadcast (16). The more decisive acts are discredited and imputed to provocateurs, agents from abroad, terrorists, international subversion... If moreover the local bourgeoisie can rely on such or such local, racial, national, ideological... division, all the means of broadcasting will make the most of this opportunity: "unrest is spread by foreigners", "it is a fight between Blacks and Koreans", the trouble-makers come from "the favellas", "are Kurds", "it is a fundamentalist uprising", etc. These are different ways to express a series of attempts to negate the proletariat. And of course, those attacks against our class are echoed, magnified and multiplied by all the international means of communication. Their most important point will be to hide at all costs, to prevent by all means anyone from recognising in these revolts general or universal causes. Proletarians all around the world must never realise that other proletarians revolt as proletarians; for the media (which are supposed to inform us) the revolts are never proletarian but "fundamentalist", "Palestinian", "anti-dictatorship", they are revolts of "immigrants", "starving people", "Arabs", revolts "typical of the Third World"...
The bourgeois counter-offensive structures itself by organising the separation between "the good and honest citizen" and "the provocateur", between the nationals and the foreigners, between the good workers and the lazy ones, between the normal citizens and the marginal ones, reserving for the first ones the carrot and for the second ones the club.
Then comes the moment for concessions: such or such minister or chairman is dismissed, there are measures against poverty or charity measures, the price rise that started the uprising is quashed, state shops are resupplied... And, at the same time, a violent repression as selective as possible falls on the proletarians. Indeed all handbooks of counter-insurrection insist on the selectivity of repression, saying that "to avoid the population being favourable to the subversives, repression must be selective and must not repress in an indiscriminate way". The intensive work of the official state apparatuses that apply in the streets active repression against the most openly combative sectors is not sufficient; that's the reason why, long before any trouble so-called unofficial apparatuses (paramilitary groups, half syndicalist/half mafia crime specialists, death squads...) are preparing themselves.
Disinformation is total: what really happens in the streets is never told, scenes or photos of "barbarism", of proletarian expropriations, of fires are mixed up with images of repression, discourses of well-informed politicians explaining "the reasons for the troubles" and reassuring us on behalf of the State, Order and Security. And to cap it all, the touch that will make all those lies so spectacularly true: the camera lingers on that poor guy whose shop, that was just big enough to make a living for him, has just been looted and burned (17). Then, progressively and cunningly what happens in the street is abandoned and we are more and more bombarded with soothing political discourse heralding the return to a state of calm, the reappraisal of this measure, the resignation of this minister, new elections... These discourses express, with the deepest commiseration, that it is obvious, understood and clear that the situation of misery is unbearable but that it does not justify such and such an action and that the movement was in fact manipulated by professional agitators etc. In those delicate moments when the relation of forces is at stake in the street, all the State agents collaborate in seeking for political solutions: police, journalists, priests, sociologists, ecologists, right and left wing parties...
But let's not be foolish, it does not last long. Within an few days Capital imposes its terrorist order. Often, if not in almost all cases, the massacre is enormous, the cost in human life and injuries is very high. Our best comrades are put on file and imprisoned. State terror is terrible. In Venezuela, Algeria or Los Angeles for instance, after the short-lived victory that consists in occupying the streets for a while, follows a deep defeat and we know that many years will be necessary to overturn it.
That is the reason why it would be criminal to close our eyes to this reality and to praise these sort of revolts, presenting them as "the finally found form of the revolutionary struggle" (18). And if we can't prevent different immediatists and other modernists from praising this kind of movement, our task, the task of revolutionaries is to make a militant criticism of these actions of our class.
It is very serious, it is tragic that we are powerless to prevent the massacre of our comrades. It is sad to see the strength we expressed for a few days break into pieces in the wink of an eye and to see that overnight we are again as lonely as before (19). Practical solidarity we have lived during those days disappears as quickly as it was born. It is terrible to see that we are unable to get our comrades out of jail. It is really heart-breaking to see that "everyone for himself" resurfaces as soon as we quit the streets and that individualism, selfishness and the powerless citizen again take their central place on the historic stage. Even worse: the proper story of what we have been living is negated by the dominant versions of events and the lapses of our own memory submitted to the lies of the latter.
Today's world is characterised by the consequences of the tragic lack of permanent association of the proletariat: no permanent nucleus, no meeting centre, no massive classist press, no international organisation of the proletariat able to gather the vanguard of this community of struggle that shows up here and there. Therefore, the importance of permanent militant activity, of directly internationalist communist action centred on a revolutionary program of action, of organisation, of perspectives such as the one developed by our little group of militants - in spite of our very weak forces, becomes clear.
The lack of this general form of organisation materializes itself in decisive moments of action by the lack of clear orders, perspectives and direction. If class instinct is enough to recognize where to expropriate and who to attack (generally the cops and other corps of open repression), as soon as the struggle comes to a more decisive step and the bourgeoisie shows more subtle faces, as soon as sectors of bourgeois opposition try to transform the classist content into a particular content... the struggle against capitalism is transformed into a particular political struggle. It becomes a struggle against dictatorship, against that government, this minister, against that unpopular measure or even worse: for democracy, for the autonomy of the area or for Islam...
But all this is also the result of the fact that, even when the struggle is at its peak, the lies and tales the bourgeoisie always tells have deeply penetrated our class. Nationalism, Islamist mobilisations, struggle against such or such dictatorship... are unfortunately not only bourgeois discourses, they transform themselves into a material force of disorganisation of our struggle because tens of thousands of proletarians are led into and mobilized for the defence of these ideologies. Populism, the renewal of religions and sects, racism and so-called anti-racism as political movements have developed a great deal and not only weigh down on us during the endless periods of social peace but also weigh heavily on and disorganize big battles of the worldwide proletariat. Many times the bourgeoisie succeeds in deviating the struggle from its objectives; moreover, in many circumstances it succeeds in mobilizing a part of the proletariat against another, which is a decisive step towards the transformation of the social war into an imperialist war inside a country (20). Without necessarily going as far as the case of Yugoslavia in which proletarian struggles gave way to a fratricidal war for bourgeois interests (which is, beyond the qualities of such and such a local or national faction, a true victory for world capital), in many cases what is searched for and often reached is the confrontation of one proletarian sector against another; as in Argentina amongst those who participated in the "saqueos" (looting), as in the United States where everything was done to transform the proletarian revolt of Los Angeles into a struggle between racial communities (although without much success).
To synthesize, we can say today that there has never been such a big difference between the strength of proletarian action and the lack of proletarian consciousness of this action; between the classist practice against Capital and the State and the general ignorance of the determinations of this practice and its aims; between the homogeneity of the proletariat's conditions and struggles and the total and international ignorance of belonging to the same class and of struggling for the same aims; between the practical and radical questioning of private property and the social ignorance of the communist project. It is precisely the lack of permanent mass proletarian organisations and the corresponding lack of a safety valve that make all those contradictions much more violent than in the past. This typifies the framework of the present days' struggles, their strengths as well as their weaknesses. The latter appear through the capacity of capital to transform our struggles into inter-bourgeois, inter-imperialist struggles and eventually into a conflict opposed to the subconscious project of the proletarian struggles (communist revolution), through its capacity to affirm Capital's project: imperialist war (that is to say renovation of bourgeois society by a new cycle of war, reconstruction, expansion...).
And us? What the fuck are we doing to be ready? Not much really!
This sad reality cannot be changed just by revolutionary will and consciousness of such and such a group. Meanwhile the rest of the class is not receptive and contents itself with the world of misery it is submitted to. The minority organisation of a handful of communists, whatever their will, whatever their action and however important their function may be, cannot replace this immense lack of collective preparation. The disorganisation of our class, the lack of permanent structures of diffusion, discussion, exchange, coordination, organisation... cannot be replaced by the insignificant activity of small groups.
That is the reason why, in the short and medium term, these kind of revolts will carry on with all their strengths and, above all, unfortunately, all their weaknesses. We will not be able to prevent the future revolts, in the short term, from ending in heavy losses for our class. Disorganisation, dispersion provoked in our ranks by the enemy as soon as it reorganises massive repression and begins to shoot at us, the fact that the proletariat can't even rely on groups being able to reply to State terrorism by the elementary selective terrorism of our class, the absence of structures of international solidarity, the quasi-non-existence of proletarian structures able to diffuse what's going on in other parts of the world and, generally, the disorganisation of the proletariat as a class will allow again and again in many places the bourgeoisie to take revenge for our revolts by arresting, brutalising, torturing, killing or allowing to die in their jails elements of the proletarian avant-garde.
Even worse, the bourgeoisie will carry on hiding the class character of future revolts. It will carry on writing that these revolts belong to particular causes and the majority of the proletarians will remain indifferent, sure that these are "Islamist" revolts or revolts "against dictatorship" or "corruption". As in the past, this false interpretation will be part of reality (as a philosopher said a long time ago: "The false is a moment of the true") and Capital will do everything to transform it into the one and only truth, in order to transform class struggle into inter-bourgeois, inter-imperialist struggle.
But this situation will not last long, on the one hand because of the ever more general homogenisation of capitalism which will hinder the attempts to hide the uniformity of the conditions of struggle of the proletariat, and on the other hand because of the unavoidable awakening that will ensue from the multiplication of that kind of revolt and the defeats which follow.
Crisis homogenizes the general condition of Capital's development. Not only are capitalists' problems always the same, not only is there unavoidably more and more famine, poverty, unemployment... but, moreover, the economic politics of governments around the world become more similar every day. Besides, the room to manoeuvre is shrinking and the discourses do not change. They all accept what they call "realism" and "pragmatism" and that is nothing other than the open recognition of their own submission to the diktats of the economy. What is new is not this submission as such, it has always been like that, but the generalised admission of that submission. If the discourses of the right and left wings, from the North to the South, of imperialists as well as so-called "anti-imperialists", of nationalists and Islamists look more and more like each other, it is not because these factions are becoming more capitalist than before, nor because the kind of capitalist management called "Communism" has disappeared, but because in a period of expansion Capital can allow different forms of management while in a period of crisis, world Capital develops one sole dictatorial direction: to tighten one's belt. While in certain epochs, on the basis of a maintained increase of the real wage, Capital is able to manage the labour force in a popular way while hiding the permanent increase of the rate of exploitation (which leads to different economic politics more or less populist, state controlled, protectionist...), in periods of crisis, and above all in periods of deep and generalized crisis such as the one we are living now, the law of value violently imposes itself and forces all the bourgeois factions to fight against their own proletariat and against their competitors (21) to maintain the process of valorization. The "normal" growth of the rate of exploitation giving insufficient results, the struggle against the proletariat requires (in almost all cases) to impose a decreasing of the real wage.
The unavoidable and universal enforcement of the same economic politics against the same social class, the repetition of the same type of discourse all over the world to justify this politics ("sacrifices are unavoidable", "we must produce more and in a more profitable way", "let's defend the competitiveness of our country"...) tend in the end to unify the reaction of the enemy... and to unify the enemy itself, in spite of all the ideological efforts made to prevent that unification. The latter is, first of all, the more or less automatic and pre-conscious result of the unavoidable reaction unified in time and space. Its reproduction, the coincidence in different places of the world of this kind of revolt will for sure complicate the role of those ideologues and journalists (i.e. to hide the common causes of the revolts) which opens the possibilities of a process of effective realization for the constitution of one class against one enemy.
At the same time, the qualitative and quantitative intensification of these revolts, the repetition of the defeats will open the eyes, the ears, the spirit... of the proletariat who will compare its own experience, who will hear the experience of its neighbours, who will search for that of other regions, other epochs. In the beginning those who will begin this process will be few but, in one way or another, each of us, as militants, are the product of this kind of forced opening, of this kind of post-action thinking, of the essential supersession of the barriers which held back the previous struggle, of the balance-sheet of a wave of struggle that did not end where we wished it would end. Revolutionaries, those who really lead the class forward, those who at every concrete moment of the movement represent the interests of the whole, the internationalist and historical interests of communism... the revolutionaries do not train themselves through books, they are the complex product of concrete experiences, of attempts to generalise these experiences, of militant efforts of abstraction. They put to the test their embryonic conclusions and compare them to those reached in other places and other circumstances. It is in this context that militant books and writings have their true significance, which is to transmit experiences, to recover the historic memory of our class, to draw a balance-sheet of defeats in order to organise the perspective of victory, to develop and affirm the communist program. The process is long, hard and difficult... but there is no other way!
Contrary to the social democratic vision of a party of bourgeois intellectuals who know everything and teach it to the passive and ignorant masses, social reality is quite different. The proletariat engenders factions, groups able to synthesise the historical experience it has accumulated, and that's the only way to break from idealism, to avoid making the same mistakes again and again in different times and places.
But those revolutionary groups, more isolated today than ever in the past, will only be able to assume their task of revolutionary leadership when the future struggles push more and more sectors of the proletariat to break from the ideologies that imprison them today, when minorities will begin to be clearly seen, when their preoccupations, the preoccupations of communists, will be put forward: revolution, the struggle against capitalism in all its forms.
Only then will our enemies flying on this idyllic and soporific cloud where communism has been buried once and for all, where the conviction that the proletariat is dead reigns, where they can sleep soundly since no one will ever shout LONG LIVE THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION, suddenly feel the greatest fear of the century. They will wake up from this marvellous and stupid dream to which the society they represent keeps them submitted. The harder they fall!
2. For clarity of explanation, we have to present as separate moments what are certainly two sides of the same process in which this negation of the proletariat as a class is realised.
3. Like for example "1984,..'85,..'87,..'89 pire que prevu. La citoyennisation de la vie" in Le Communiste No.27 and "Contre le terrorisme d'Etat, de tous les Etats existants" in Le Communiste No.26.
4. If we put "strike" between inverted commas it is because a real strike, for us, is a battle between proletarians and capital whose content as well as its form will tend to express this reality in thousands of different ways: absence of precise demands relating to such and such a category of workers, tendency to be generalized, indefinite duration, sabotage of production, confrontation with the scabs, appearance of "uncontrolled" minority groups...). Here, on the contrary, we are talking about a trade union action (that is to say the action of an apparatus of the capitalist state) having the aim of channelling, and therefore liquidating proletarian energy.
5. In certain cases, the division of labour between the apparatuses of the bourgeois state (for example between unions and the forces of order) allows even a certain dose of minoritarian violence, which of course never attacks the bourgeois order. Thus as long as the majority of the demonstration is peacefully contained by interminable union speeches, they tolerate or even promote a radical part of the demonstrators breaking away and throwing themselves at the special forces of the police who are specially prepared for this to happen. The bourgeoisie and its property remain well protected and it takes advantage of the situation to arrest radical proletarians and to put possible activists on file. Each state force carries out its function, one using truncheons, the other using diversion (which is obviously not to say that the unions don't use overt repression as well). So the force of the proletariat, incapable of leading itself towards its own goal and using minoritarian violence against its real class enemies, is squandered without calling capital into question.
6. In opposition to the decadentist myth which says that unions corresponded to the interests of the proletariat until 1914, we will take the opportunity in this footnote to remind you that since their origin, in particular during the whole of the 19th century, there were unions whose objective was identical to that of the unions today: class conciliation betraying the immediate interests of the workers... Already in 1890, the Catholic Church in France recommended the creation of unions against the proletarian struggle. We would draw the attention of the reader to the article "Mouvement communiste et syndicalisme" in issues No.4 and 6 of Le Communiste.
7. This disappearance of the proletariat is only apparent because, in the last instance, the very existence of bourgeois society has its foundation and its source of reproduction (expansion) in the proletariat itself. But it is true that the proletariat as a class, as a force, as a power opposed to capital, is negated. And this reality can only be totally put into question in practice. That is to say that it is useless, in a period like the one we are going through today, just to say: "The proletariat exists". The proletariat will only fully exist when it constitutes itself anew as a force of social opposition against the existing bourgeois order. Of course, to complete this statement, we must add that materially the possibility and the necessity of this reconstitution of the proletariat as a class, and therefore as a party, is based on the permanent antagonism of this society, an antagonism which the bourgeoisie cannot abolish, not even in the golden ages of total domination. The hundreds of sporadic and discontinuous battles which we are trying to schematize in this text already carry in themselves the development of this movement of reconstitution of the proletariat.
8. Our attention will be drawn, with good reason, to the fact that, as long as value essentially comes from human labour, a humanoid will not create value and that, for capital as a whole, this limit will be its own death. Nevertheless it is not capital as a whole which runs this world, but the life and death struggle between all the multiple particular capitals; a struggle in which each of these capitals obtains extra surplus value from each move in the direction of this humanoid and is therefore interested in the development of productive forces in this direction. To suppose that capital is able to stop its own suicide and/or the suicide of humanity is to attribute to it virtues of planning which objectively it doesn't have.
9. We don't think it's necessary to explain to our readers why we put inverted commas round these "enjoyments".
10. On this subject see the article "Direct action and internationalism" in Communism No.8 (july 1993).
11. Explosions of this type which, in some cases, only affect an area of a town, in other cases a whole town or a whole country or even extend beyond the borders, are obviously not the only forms of struggle today, but we consider that they are the most characteristic forms of present day struggles. The proletariat also demonstrates its existence and its antagonism to the world order when it refuses to be enlisted or when it deserts, but, except for Iraq, these ways in which it expresses itself are not the determining ones today. We could also mention a unionist strike overwhelmed by proletarians who leave their factory to generalize their struggle; but considering that the proletariat expresses itself in that form more rarely and with less importance than in the past, this is not worthy of our attention, least of all in this general outline of present class struggles.
12. The experts of the World Bank and of the International Monetary Fund go to the point of congratulating themselves on the lack of opposition of populations to the measures which they recommend, and this becomes for them a strong argument to convince governments and political parties to put these measures into practice.
13. We refer of course to the social mass of the bourgeoisie and of the classical state apparatuses. It is clear that for a long time the state has had its special corps (for direct as well as ideological repression) ready to carry out manipulation of information, selective repression etc... as we'll schematically explain in the next chapter.
14. If it is clear that it is not the state which creates property but that the opposite is true, because the State is nothing else but property fortified to reproduce itself, we can't forget that the human being respects private property and even goes to the point of starving to death, because he is deprived of the property of what is most essential, while on the other hand there is a tremendous amount of waste. And this only by the pressure brought on him by centuries and centuries of state terrorism, by the ideology of respect for property which this terrorism has managed to impose and reproduce through its ancient work.
15. In many cases, after a moment's surprise, special corps for the defense of private property are organised and the proletariat responds by limited forms of organisation and arms.
16. Just asserting that journalism is at the service of the State would mean that we are too condescending to journalists. In reality, journalism is one of the components of the State and contributes to drawing up its politics. On the other hand, it would be false and partial to consider that it is this state apparatus (or any other means of communication) that leads all the others. That conception, quite fashionable for some modernists or ex-ultra-left militants, is nothing but an idealist interpretation of the thesis of "the society of spectacle" which forgets the fundamental determinations of Capital. If journalism can, in certain circumstances, "lead" the police, the government, the army... it is itself more often "led" by the police, the government or the army, and we cannot forget that, fundamentally, the motor of this component remains value valorising itself and that any structure of the State is submitted to the central determination of the State: to reproduce Capital, to reproduce the domination of the bourgeoisie, to reproduce the exploited as exploited. To pretend that the journalistic spectacle leads the world is nothing but a spectacular submission to the world of spectacle.
17. In these revolts there can be unfair, incorrect expropriations, individualistic and selfish acts of little chiefs. There can also be participants acting as provocateurs to denigrate the movement. But contrary to the police and journalists' version it is never the essence of this kind of movement. It would be absurd to pretend that such problems do not exist. The transformation of the individualistic and selfish mass on which Capital is based into a compact and revolutionary class is a long process that is only (re)beginning with these revolts.
18. During the 1917-23 wave, this formula referred to the councils and the soviets (useful structures for the organisation of proletarians) considered as the form that would eternally guarantee the revolution. But no organisational form can guarantee a revolutionary content, and councils as well as soviets ended up everywhere (and clearly in Russia and Germany) in guaranteeing the functioning of Capital. The uncritical praise of these forms (councilism) was the best ally of the capitalists in the process of reorganisation.
19. Of course some contacts, some relationships produced from the movement are indestructible, and develop themselves in the preparation of new struggles. But seeing the present world wide situation, we may say that these are much too rare exceptions to characterise this period.
20. The clearest example of this kind of liquidation of a proletarian struggle is the 1930s in Spain where World Capital succeeded in transforming the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against capital and the State into an inter-bourgeois struggle, an imperialist struggle between fascism and anti-fascism, which constituted a decisive step towards the so-called "Second World War".
21. About the unavoidable exacerbation of the war of the proletariat against inter-bourgeois war, see the text "The capitalist catastrophe" in this review.
"Above all, during and immediatly after the struggle, the workers as far as it is possible, must oppose bourgeois attempts at pacification (...).
Far from opposing so-called excesses -instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buldings with which hateful memories are associated- the workers' party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give a them direction."
Address of the Central Committee (March 1850)
One of the centres of proletarian agitation was organised around the workers of the petroleum industry. This sector is vital for the national economy, Nigeria representing the fifth largest producer in OPEC, with a production equivalent to that of Kuwait. Strengthened by a long experience of struggle which has regularly manifested itself by strikes and sabotage of production in the Nigerian delta (the main concentration of oil wells, refineries and terminals), the oil workers led a strike which had serious repercussions on the national economy.
This strike constituted an important reaction by our class to the aggressions we are subjected to. Moreover, it took place in a country which dominant ideology considers to be "underdeveloped" (with all of this concept's racist undertones, which go as far as denying the existence of proletarians in these countries). Repercussions of the struggle have affected world market prices; the price of a barrel of oil rocketed due to the standstill of Nigerian refineries and a halt on exports. At the very time that the bourgeoisie was broadcasting, to whoever would listen, that there was "light at the end of the tunnel", that "the end of the recession" had come, that, for the industry, this "cautious recovery" (1) necessitated a growth in primary energy consumption, this movement of struggle shattered the illusions capitalists were using to comfort themselves. The ideologists thought they had buried the proletariat once and for all, and yet here it was, rising in struggle at the heart of Africa.
Let's take this opportunity to show our recognition of the struggle of our proletarian brothers in Nigeria and to emphasise the ever increasing ridiculousness of eurocentrist ideologies which try so hard to deny the proletarian character of such fights. The anti-capitalist action in Nigeria reaffirmed, in practice and with force, the universality of the living and fighting conditions of the world proletariat. It occurred in spite of the bourgeois thesis developed by self-proclaimed "internationalist" groups, which denigrates workers' struggle when it breaks out anywhere other than in so-called "central industrialised countries". It occurred in spite of the racist and nationalist theses which cannot conceive the proletariat as being anything other than "white", "European" or even "Londoners". It occurred in spite of this eurocentrist vision, which is no more than the negation of proletarian internationalism. In Nigeria, as everywhere else on this bloody planet, our method for imposing our class needs is the same - strikes, riots and attempts to organise the struggle.
Every time the proletariat responds with direct action, asserting itself as an autonomous force, the bourgeoisie envelops the emerging struggles, first by total silence and then by a faultless cover-up. This allows a subsequent reduction of such actions to what they never were, for example a "struggle for more democracy"... The proletarian insurrection in Iraq in March 1991 is one remarkable example of what the bourgeoisie is capable of in terms of organised lies (2).
In any case it is certain that the fighting proletariat in Nigeria had absolutely no respect for the rules of the "democratic alternation" so appreciated by the bourgeoisie. Proletarians have set the struggle of class against class in opposition to the choice between "military" and "civilian" government, put forward by the bourgeoisie to justify democracy.
The history of our class, in Nigeria as elsewhere, is marked by numerous struggles, sometimes bloody, in defense of its immediate -and therefore also historical- interests against the sacrifices enforced by the worldwide bourgeoisie. We would like to remind ourselves of some of these struggles before describing the movement that has just taken place.
Proletarian resistance to these measures was such that the IMF admitted its reluctance to carry on with its loans if there were no "quick improvements". In other words, the world State, as always, gave its local lackeys carte blanche to subdue our class. In this situation of unstable social peace, the various bourgeois factions present have to be capable of recognizing which of them is best able to get the bitter pill of austerity swallowed. In Nigeria this task was incumbant upon the "military" bourgeois faction. "How could a civilian government apply measures of austerity indispensable to the execution of the structural adjustment plan in these conditions?" wrote the press at the time.
Machine guns and bullets are what Capital holds in store for the proletariat when it starts to fight!
In 1988, in response to an increase in the price of fuel, riots broke out in Jos and Sokoto, which turned out to be the start of more intense waves of struggle. In May and June 1989, several towns such as Lagos, Ibadan, Benin City and Port Harbour revolted against the IMF's plan, resulting in between a hundred and two hundred deaths. "Army shoots on sight to prevent a generalisation of troubles likely to challenge policies of structural adjustment" a bourgeois newspaper openly declared. Numerous soldiers came within a hairsbreadth of fraternising with the proletarians. Fearing the persistence of disorder, the bourgeoisie didn't dare increase the price of public tariffs nor decrease subsidies of basic commodities.
In April 1991 new riots broke out in the North, in Kano, Katsina, Bauchi and Lagos. As always, in order to wipe out the clear outline of class war and to prevent this fight from linking up with other moments and places of struggle, the bourgeoisie encouraged the development of inter-ethnic polarisations, a tactic to divide proletarians and, as a result of ensuing micro-nationalisms, to atomize their struggle. The bourgeoisie needs to put us into specific categories, each one having something particular to defend. The bourgeois misinformation expresses this reality ideologically by stressing the definition of each ethnic category and according them marked differences in their political perspectives. The hand is played, the proletariat no longer exists. In the eyes of the media, every social movement is shattered into a mosaic of religious, ethnic, political,... factions. Thus we hear of "muslims in the North", "Christians in the South", "military partisans in the mountains" and "supporters of democratic alternation along the coast". What rubbish!
It is the same interests, antagonistic to those of the hated class, that lead proletarians to fight in the north as in the south. This reality is clearly visible at the heart of the struggle (4). An example was seen at the end of May 1993, when the Emir of Kano (a large industrial centre in the North, "muslim", as the choir of journalists loves to keep on chanting!) was stoned by proletarians from a very poor neighbourhood during the sacrosanct procession of Sallah, the Festival of Sacrifice. This no doubt did the Emir some harm, but also put the fables about the religiousness of the region's proletarians and their supposedly different resultant interests into perspective.
In May 1992, at the same time as proletarians were invading the streets of Los Angeles, USA, new riots broke out all over Nigeria. The reasons: a devaluation of the Nigerian currency by 70% and a serious fuel shortage which sent the prices of public transport sky high. Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harbour, Benin City, Abuja,... were in revolt. The unions only succeeded in restoring calm several days later and with the help of the army's ferocious repression.
It was in this context of growing social instability that the local bourgeoisie performed its hackneyed old election trick, organising presidential elections on the 12th June 1993. In a spectacular show, closely followed by the media, the "military" bourgeois faction's candidate, General Babandiga, was set against his "civilian" opposition, the millionaire Moshod Abiola, candidate of the "Social-Democratic Party". In an attempt to maximise votes in the decaying, but highly populated, suburbs of the cities, Abiola centred his electorial campaign on the populist theme of "goodbye to poverty". Why not "let's all become millionaires" while we are at it?! As if the bourgeoisie had anything other than misery to offer us!
These elections were an out and out failure for all bourgeois factions. The turnout was very poor at support meetings organised by the "military" faction in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina (a region traditionally presented as one of its strongholds). On the 23rd of June, the "military" faction cancelled the elections and published a press release justifying the halt to the "democratic process" in order to "avoid ridiculing the country's legal and judiciary system". The scandalised "civilians" denounced the "confiscation of the democratic process". However, this cancellation was merely a logical progression from their inability to publish official results - since it was an election without any results, easy to appreciate when one realises that only 30% of the population turned up to the polling stations. From our point of view, a 70% level of abstention is always of relative interest and expresses, even if only in a very passive way, a certain refusal by the proletariat to collaborate with the construction its own misery.
"Democratic process" or not, what the proletariat is looking for is a profound transformation of its conditions of existence. Its life is a hell permanently fuelled by the obligation to work to survive, its life a non-life, and it is certainly not the election of a new administrator that is going to change anything about the situation.
When the bourgeoisie talks about "democratic process", demanding free elections, the respect of Rights, freedom of the press etc, it is referring to a simple change in the form of government that no more challenges the administration of exploitation than it does the situation of proletarians. In the context of Nigeria, it was a parliamentary government that gave way to a Bonapartist government. Democracy, as we have explained several times before, is merely the expression of a market reality which claims that there are no proletarians nor bourgeois in the world of Economy but only buyers and sellers of commodities. In this way, one of the most profound resolutions of democracy is to recruit proletarians (negated as such) and to turn them into responsible citizens (that is to say either silent citizens or ones who regurgitate the speeches of those who dominate), either by force... or by way of the vote. The vote itself expresses little more than docility with regard to the system set up to exploit the proletariat. The important thing for the bourgeoisie is that every citizen participates in the elections and, in doing so, becomes dependent on his vote. If he is not happy, he just needs to choose a better administrator next time. The parliamentary game can only function with the participation of a majority of individualised proletarians, an a-classist concept, if such a thing exists.
If, as has been the case in Nigeria, a general refusal to participate in this circus is expressed, it falls on the most suitable bourgeois faction, be it unionist, military, religious or other, to take things into hand. It is of little importance to capital whether its administrators are "civilian" or "military", as long as its administrative requirements are met. It's obvious that each type of government (whether parliamentary or Bonapartist) has both advantages and drawbacks and is never purely "civilian" or "military". Predominantly parliamentary governments (classified along with "civilian" government) clearly do not mind imposing austerity measures or even organising "coups". Similarly, the more Bonapartist governments (classified along with "military" government) are quite prepared to play the voting game as long as it makes their task easier. It all depends upon how much room for manoeuvre the ruling faction of the time has at its disposal, which itself depends upon the social situation.
We therefore see how these types of governments alternate: when one loses its credibility, the other can take its place and vice-versa. But whatever form a government takes, it's always the need for capital's administration that predominates in this choice, even if it's the balance of force between classes that finally imposes one or other form of government on the bourgeoisie. "The halt of the democratic process", as evoked in the Nigerian Generals' communique, merely expresses this passage from one form of government to another. The "civilians'" demand to "restart the democratic process" is actually just a spare fuse, to keep in reserve, lest the "military" fail to bring the situation under control (5).
At the end of June, the agitation became more extensive again; in several cities in the south-west, proletarians erected barricades to confront the forces of order. In Ibadan, proletarians attacked the prison and freed hundreds of prisoners. In Lagos, they devastated the trade union headquarters as a protest against the cancellation of the general strike.
On the 5th, 6th and 7th of July, whilst Abiola and his gang were declaring themselves winners of the election and calling for people to put their trust in them, the proletariat took to the streets. Riots and looting broke out. In Lagos, the government showed itself incapable of pushing back the rioters who were crossing the district, pillaging everything as they went. Young proletarians descended from the suburbs to the town centre, erecting barricades, burning cars and attacked the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as several supermarkets. Many cops were killed. The insurgents held the main roads of the city as well as the bridges and attacked military convoys to get hold of weapons and set fire to army vehicles. The government responded by sending in the army. But, as in 1989, even the heart of the army itself was bursting with internal dissent. Was it to be mutiny, defeatism or further inter-bourgeois polarisations? To this day, very few details have reached us but it is clear that the social contradictions at the very heart of the army motivated this "dissent".
In the weeks that followed, "civilians" and the "military" negotiated with a view to forming a government of national union. However, the "military" faction did not believe that the "civilians" would be capable of managing the social situation. During the whole of August, the "civilian" fraction tried, with the unions, to prove itself. The agitation continued to grow and the workers of the petrol industry triggered strike after strike, notably in the Port Harcourt refinery, pulling in the Kaduna refinery in their wake, which also had to stop momentarily. Nevertheless, after eight years of good and loyal services, General Babandiga gave up his place to a civilian government in a gesture of appeasement and social pacification.
One of the problems confronting the administrators of capital during these strikes was obviously how to maintain profits drawn from the exploitation of petrol workers. As a result of the class struggle, major fuel shortages disrupted the supply routes which, in turn, had a negative affect on other sectors of the economy. On the other hand, the government was forced into making petrol subsidies of 95%, in an attempt to prevent further social explosions, and it was only supposed to cost 0,70 Naira (0,15 FF) at the pump. However this decision, resulting from proletarian struggle, yielded little return for the capitalists. As a consequence, fuel was sent to neighbouring countries instead where it was sold for between 2,6 and 4 FF, that is 17 to 26 times more expensive. Thus, a third of Nigerian fuel was exported, leading to rises in local prices due to shortages and increasing demand. The bourgeoisie tried to explain the price rises as being related to episodes of corruption, amongst other things, but the reality of the problem was clear: how to increase fuel prices without risking a social explosion?
In November 93, as the "civilian" government decided on new fuel price increases of 700% to 900% the struggle became stronger than ever. The unions jumped onto the bandwagon during the general strike organised by proletarians, which largely hit major industrial cities such as Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja,... In the Lagos suburbs, groups of young proletarians confronted the police and the army in violent clashes. Recognising its inability to bring the social agitation under control, the "civiliam" government was forced to resign. The situation was taken in hand by the "military" faction under the leadership of General Sanni Abacha. Before they were able to gain sufficient reinforcement by spreading more widely, the strikes were smashed by force: "the country could no longer put up with the dislocation and the destruction of its economy" the "new" rulers declared.
That was the position at the end of 1993. The "military" silenced all demands and proletarian struggle appeared to have been crushed by the new government's iron grip.
As far as we know, these struggles regained strength at the beginning of June 1994, as riots broke out in several Lagos suburbs. Again, barricades were erected and important communication routes cut off, thus blocking all free circulation of goods. This arm-wrestling match with the proletariat had now gone on for several years and the bourgeoisie attempted to break it by once again playing its old card of "democratic alternation."
In the middle of June, the "democratic opposition" organised a campaign bringing together "responsible citizens against the military regime", in an attempt to put their leader back in the saddle, the millionnaire (as ever) Abiola. They also organised a week of "civil disobedience" which culminated in "dead town" days, caricatures of "barricade days" (sic) and other "days of prayer". But generally in Nigeria, as in Zaire and elsewhere in Africa, all such attempts at large mobilisation by opposition bourgeois factions gain very little support.
From the 4th of July 1994, the strike movement was, once again, broadened by the appearance of the petrol workers onto the scene. In the defence of their interests, they developed social confrontation throughout the country and at all levels of production. In this sector the State structures itself around powerful unions, true spearheads of the counterrevolution: the NUPENG (National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers) and the PENGASSAN (Union of the Petroleum Industry Managers). Concerned to avoid being overtaken by proletarians organising in an autonomous way, the unions were forced to ease up on the pressure and to try to take the lead of the struggle by declaring an "unlimited strike", which was, in any case, inevitable. Therefore, on the 12th of July, the main trade union headquarters (National Labour Congress - NLC) recognised the general strike, realising that it is far better be integrated into a strike and take over its leadership,ie sabotage it, than it is to be overtaken by the struggles. The trade unions tried to transfer class opposition from the social terrain on which it was placed (demands for higher wages, struggles against misery, unemployment,...) to a strictly political terrain by advocating the replacement of one bourgeois faction by another, the "military" by the "civilians". But the strike paralysed all activity in Lagos and other large cities. Simultaneously, there was a full scale reinforcement of repression. While the workers of the Warri petrochemical plant were subjected to a lock-out, the fuel shortage paralysed the whole country. Bloody riots broke out on the 18th of July in Lagos and Ibadan, proletarians from suburbian slums again coming out onto the streets. There were more than twenty casualties, amongst them several cops beaten to death. At Port Harcourt, one of the country's largest refineries, the consequences of the strike were such that the minister of petrol stated that it would take several months to resolve all the resultant technical problems.
On the 21st July, the unions call for a return to work was met by a multiplication of strikes and demonstrations, the proletariat enforcing the maintenance of the strike. Further riots broke out in Lagos on the 26th and strikers imposed an immediate halt of all production and trade by force. Street fights with Capital's mercenaries turned into a pillage of the commercial centre. At the end of the month, the unions warned the petrol companies of the risks of sabotage if their bosses were to continue to employ scabs. These scabs, largely composed of retired and expat workers, American and European engineers amongst them, were badly beaten up by the strikers. The unions had to admit that they were no longer in control of their "base".
At the beginning of August, after a month of strike, the world bourgeoisie started to worry about the soaring prices of a barrel of petrol on the world markets. Once again it was the persistence of social troubles that forced the State, by way of the unions, to take measures to bring the violent attacks of the proletariat down to the level of negociable demands. On the 3rd of August, the NLC declared a further "general strike" and tried to reduce the proletarian movement to a reasonable protest, taking national interests into consideration. But once again, groups of organised proletarians went beyond this farce of a general strike and turned it into a real social clash expressed by arson, looting, barricades, etc in several suburbs of Northern Lagos. In the same neighbourhoods the previous evening, food trucks had already been plundered by groups of "young troublemakers" and their contents immediately distributed to "passers-by" (media quote!). Seeing the situation taking a turn for the worse, the social firemen (i.e. the unions) decided to try some damage limitation and called for a return to work. This appeal, as those before it, proved fruitless.
As a result of these proletarian reactions, the entire national economy was badly hit. In Lagos, power cuts became more and more frequent, public transport practically non-existent and electricity plants came to a halt due to the lack of fuel. On the 5th of August, the Port Harcourt refineries had to close down again due to the strike. On the 8th, Shell announced a suspension of its crude oil exports due to damages inflicted on an important pipeline "in the context of the strike".
In order to force the proletarians back to work, the government had to purge its own institutions. On the 17th of August, it decided to dissolve three of the main unions that had proved incapable of taking the lead in the proletarian struggle and transforming it into a reasonable movement. This measure, no matter how spectacular it might seem, was merely a simple and temporary sanction in order to facilitate a future recredibilisation of these unions.
Simultaneously, the bourgeois toughened up their tone and threatened that "any further act of vandalism against strategic installations of the country will be promptly and firmly repressed". These threats signified not only a confession by the bourgeoisie that they were in danger, but also clearly confirmed their need to go on the offensive. A few hours later, as demonstrations broke out in Kaduna (the major commercial centre in the north) and Benin City, violent confrontations took place between the strikers and the army, which had been deployed in strategic areas of these cities. However, Shell had to announce the closure of the Forcados petrol terminal (one of its most important) due to sabotage of its installation.
Despite the threats of dismissal, lock-outs, use of scabs, repression, arrests, there was not an immediate return to work, the petrol workers' strike continuing. It took the government two and a half weeks to take the situation in hand and force the proletarians back to the industrial prisons. By the 26th of August all large public enterprises (petrol sector, electricity company, etc.) had been militarized. The army took on the task of mass delivery of fuel necessary for the recovery of production and petrol stations across the entire country were forcibly resupplied. On the 29th of August, the army occupied Warri and Port Harcourt. By the 5th of September, it appeared that the strike had been smashed - in any case the restocking of petrol continues. Since then there has been a news black out, with no further information available, other than that order supposedly reigns and repressive measures have been intensified.
Firstly, we can only comment once again on the appalling lack of accurate information outside the channels organised by the bourgeois media; we can only comment upon the critical absence of international and internationalist networks for proletarian centralisation.
We wanted to write this text in order to circulate the little information we have on the situation of our class brothers in Nigeria. However, for the most part, this information has been gleaned from bourgeois newspapers. We are aware that aspects relating to the organisation and continuity of struggle, demonstrations of proletarian violence, confrontation against the unions etc, are (when they are mentioned at all) completely distorted by the journalists' submissive point of view, as they are unable to venture beyond the narrow framework of the dominant ideology they are serving. There has not even been a mention of the existence of organised minorities, of leaflets from our class, of texts detailing the rupture with democratic ideology or of demonstrations of proletarian solidarity. These facts are simply not reported because they do not fit into the framework of the democratic ideology conveyed by the international media.
In short, we have no illusions about information gathered from our enemies. On this basis, it is true that the almost total non-existence of our own class structures is undeniably an expression of our weakness and demonstrates the balance of forces in the bourgeoisie's favour.
What kind of organisations arose from these years of struggle in Nigeria? What slogans/watchwords have emerged? What practical lessons did our class draw from its experience? To this day there are so many questions that remain unanswered.
At the present time, we do not have enough elements to analyze, in any depth, the levels of proletarian rupture that were expressed in these struggles, particularly as far as the existence, permanent or not, of organised minorities is concerned. However, we have no doubt that workers groups were able to and/or will be able to emerge, in the light of all those years of social agitation. We also know that direct action took place on many different occasions and that there was frequent sabotage in support of the strikes. This is surely a sign of the existence of levels of workers' organisation, even if these actions remained limited in their aims, in time as well as in space.
The organised paralysis of the National Electricity Company and the degree of structure that this implied is an example of the existence of such levels of organisation.
We know very well that the the proletarians who instigated these actions have suffered terrible repression, some militant workers have received sentences ranging from ten years in prison to the death sentence. However, it is clear that the way has been opened up and initiatives accomplished for the structurisation of proletarians and that those minorities who organised themselves actively to develop the strikes will constitute -if this isn't already the case today- nuclei for the international organisation of the proletariat.
We can also conclude that despite all the weaknesses still present in our class, the bourgeoisie had major difficulties in cooling down the situation and had to use every trick at its disposal: trade unions, left-wing/right-wing polarisation, elections, but also and especially, open repression through arrests, liquidation of proletarians and widescale military deployment. As in Algeria in 1988, armed repression appears to have been the most effective method.
Yet in Nigeria, there are no indications that the movement is dead. This is what is most astonishing compared to the rehearsals of "scenes" of struggle in most other countries, over the last few years. Throughout the world, proletarians destroy, burn, reappropriate commodities, kill a few cops, sabotage... occupy the streets and violently confront all machineries of the state, but the continuity and homogeneity of their actions and their generalisation often seem very precarious. Once the struggles have been smashed it is very rare to see demonstrations of class solidarity and organisation survive.
It seems that this has not been the case in Nigeria. Since 1988, every attempt to violently bring the proletarians back on the path to democracy has ended in a revival of the struggle. Whether faced with promises of free elections by the "civilians" or truncheon blows by the "military", proletarians have reacted with strikes, sabotages and pillages, thus demonstrating, by the systematisation of attacks against the whole State machinery, a continuity in the struggle which contrasts somewhat with the general characteristics of today's struggles (6).
We will end by stressing, once again, the common character of the universal response by proletarians in the face of the permanent degradation of their living conditions.
Against all illusionists who shout that the classes are dead and that class struggle no longer exists, against all those who lecture that Europe is the centre of the world, against those who try to divide us by emphasizing the particularities of our living conditions according to which latitudes we struggle in, we reassert that everywhere on this planet we are fighting the same enemy. The proletariat has to confront the same armies, the same unions, the same media, the same democrats, the same priests etc, all over the world.
We will respond to the HOMOGENEITY of our ever-increasingly deplorable survival conditions by UNITY of proletarian reaction!
2. See also our articles: "War or Revolution" in Communism No.7, "A comrades' testimony: a journey to Irak" in Communism No.7 and "Massacre in Halabja" in Communism No.6.
3. In the seventies, oil revenue brought in 26 billion dollars to Nigeria. The years of crisis have decreased it 6 billion in 1993.
4. It is obvious that dominant ideology is using the present international weakness shown by the proletariat in its assertion of its communist prespectives to generalise myths about the disapearance of class struggle and the non-existence of the proletariat. As always, ideology gathers its information from limited and superficial aspects of reality.
5. On the question of democracy, refer to our article "Against the myth of democracy and liberty" published in Communism No.8.
6. See also our text "General characteristics of the struggles of the present time" in this issue.
In the Collective Agreement between Keydrill Nigeria Limited and NUPENG, the company listed some of the "covert forms of resistance and protest" as including theft or fraud, sleeping on duty, possessing, using or being under the influence of intoxicants or narcotics, absenteeism, wastage of materials, sabotage and use of 'dirty language' and malicious damage of company property,... not mentionning the company vehicles set on fire, the cranes turned over, the graffiti painted on the walls, the keys to premises get lost or the radios on the rigs get damaged. Any worker found guilty of any of the above offences would be summarily dismissed without advance notice.
All the service companies complained of destruction and wastage of company property by "ghost workers" leading to thousands of naira.
"It is difficult to provide accurate statistics. But even in this service company, we have had several experiences of workers deliberately destroying our property. Most of them are heartless people who can set rigs on fire. Hence we don't take chances. At the slightest indication of discontent, we move to nip such actions by 'unknown' workers in the bud. But definitely, wastage of food and raw material on the rig, deliberate pollution in order to place oil-producing communities and the company at logger-heads, and damaging of company property have been employed in the past to put pressure on the company."
There is a case of a service company at Warri which imported a machine estimated to cost 1.8 million naira. This machine would have rendered a lot of service men, welders, supervisors, fitters, etc. jobless. Within a week workers practically dismantled the machine. They stole the parts and dumped them into the sea. Till this day, the machine lies idle in the company's premises.
A proletarian song:
"Oyel work no good.
Dem no dey take oyel cook soup.
Na who de drink oyel, who sai?
Oyimbo palava plenty pass oyel.
Dem want big work but dem no want give money.
Baboon dey chop, monkey dey work"
Oil job is no good. Who can make soup with oil? Who can drink oil? Impossible! The white man's trouble is more than oil. They want us to work hard but don't want to pay us well. The rich consume while the poor works...
"It was at the drinking bar on Warri-Sapale road that a friend told me how he had tampered with the food supplies and refrigerator on his rig. He did it because the food was bad and the company initially was fond of serving a lot of non-African food. He is a cook, so I spoke to a friend of mine in our company who is a cook and we planned our own. Almost everyone on the rig became sick. We added some sweet tasting native leaves to the food which caused some mild diarrhoea and stomach ache. Everyone complained of the food. It almost cost the cook his job, but since we had complained before, this provided a chance for renewing the complaints with evidence. It worked. We started getting fresh supplies flown daily, no more salads and bread but genuine Nigerian foods. If we had relied on wringing letters, we would be far from our goals today."
Drivers in oil companies also related several experiences: remove car plugs, deflate tires or claim that cars intended to take manager's representatives to collective bargaining places could not start. They can take longer routes or just take routes known to "have frequent go-slow". The end result is that the management's representatives arrive late or fail to get there and the union declares them unserious and calls a strike.
Petrol tanker drivers can delay on the way to delivery or even sell petrol along the way to roadside dealers:
"To many people, petrol tanker drivers are thieves who sell petrol to illegal dealers. They constitute a threat to other road users with their monster tankers. But none of them has ever driven a tanker, over long distances, night and day, without rest. In any case, whatever we do is in aid of survival, which the companies and government (are) not interested in. The bigmen want petrol to drive their big long cars but do not care what happens to we 'mekunu' (the poor). If I have the chance to sell the petrol and the tanker, I will do it any day. That will be my share of the oil boom."
In 1985, the Nigerian government passed new decrees prescribing the firing squad for those who sabotage petroleum pipelines or engage in illegal bunkering of oil. The NNPC extended its efforts to control bunkering in order to bring more revenues.
All these quotes and excerpts come from "Resistance and hidden forms of protest amongst the petroleum proletariat in Nigeria" by J.O. Ihonvbere published by Midnight Notes in "Midnight Oil". As the publisher puts it: the work is derived from data collected from the field work carried out in Lagos, Warri and its environs between May 1983 and April 1985.
"In the formation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, a class which is the dissolution of all classes, a sphere which has a universal character because of its universal suffering and which lays claim to no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general; a sphere of society which can no longer claim to a historical title, but merely to a human one, which does not stand in one-sided opposition to the consequences but in all-sided opposition to the premises of German political system; and finally a sphere which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from -and thereby emancipating- all the other spheres of society, which is, in a word, the total loss of humanity and which can therefore redeem itself only through the total redemption of humanity. This dissolution of society as a particular class is the proletariat."
K.Marx, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Introduction.