The 21st International Communist Seminar, which was held in Brussels and hosted by the Belgian Workers’ Party (PTB) this May, took as its theme ‘The relation between the immediate tasks of the communists and their struggle for socialism’. Sixty-one participants from 51 countries took part, with each delegate being allotted 10 minutes to present the main points of his/her paper, the full texts having been distributed in print.
Comrade Harpal Brar, representing the CPGB-ML, focused on a few salient points in his brief presentation, which we summarise below.
Referring to the deepest crisis of capitalism since the late 1920s, he said that, like all capitalist crises, this was a crisis of overproduction, notwithstanding the fact that it had made itself most forcefully felt in the financial sphere. This was to be expected, he explained, since the feverish speculation in stock markets, bonds, derivatives etc was merely a reflection of the lack of profitable opportunities in the productive sphere.
After the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in the US, there was a near meltdown of the imperialist financial system, with large banks in all the centres of imperialism staring bankruptcy in the face. To save the financial system, imperialist governments poured gargantuan sums of money into rescuing the banks. But while this temporarily staved off ruin for those establishments, it failed to cure the problem, merely transforming the banking crisis into a sovereign debt crisis, so that now many governments are facing bankruptcy.
As a result, various governments have been forced to resort to extreme measures of fiscal austerity, attacking working-class living standards through a combination of cuts in social spending, job losses and tax rises. The entire exercise is an attempt to save capitalism by transferring hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from the working class to the robber barons of finance capital. Even the most dim-witted amongst us are beginning to sense what a total racket monopoly capitalism is.
While the banks have apparently returned to profitability, they are now refusing to loan money to some of the governments that are in trouble (except on extortionate terms) on the grounds of the shaky creditworthiness of these governments. And on top of this, the austerity measures that have been implemented, far from reducing sovereign budget deficits, are merely serving to exacerbate the problem, since they have inevitably resulted in high unemployment, with its consequent loss of tax revenues and increase in unemployment payments.
There is a debate going on between the Keynesian and the monetarist factions of monopoly capitalism, with the former calling for growth and the latter for continuing austerity. But the truth is that none of these factions has any solutions to the problem inherent in capitalism, namely, the crises of overproduction, which is a consequence of the contradiction between social productive forces and private appropriation.
In fact, capitalism today finds itself in the same dilemma as the person in the famous Chinese fable, who was dying of thirst but the only drink he had to hand was a cup full of poison. He died if he drank it; he died if he didn’t.
Faced with this dilemma, each imperialist country is doing what it has always done when faced with similar situations in the past – it is intensifying its attacks on the working class at home and on the oppressed peoples abroad, while trying to outmanoeuvre its rivals and competitors. This is leading to the intensification of the contradiction between labour and capital in the imperialist countries, between a tiny group of imperialist exploiting nations and the vast masses of the oppressed countries on a world scale, and between the various competing imperialist powers.
Confining his remarks to Britain, Comrade Brar went on to say that there was a rising tide of anger among layers of the British working class. However, the resistance of the working class to attacks on it has so far been muted because of the suffocating grip of social democracy on the working class through the trade-union leadership.
It is just the same in the anti-war movement, which is controlled, through their agents, by the same people who are attacking working people at home and waging war on oppressed peoples abroad.
Through its own ‘left-wing’ luminaries, as well as through its Trotskyite and revisionist servitors, the Labour party – the same party that waged war against Iraq and Afghanistan while in power and continues to support imperialist wars in opposition – controls the anti-war movement. It is not therefore surprising that this movement has been run into the ground and, from being able to mobilise 2 million people to demonstrate against the war in Iraq, can now mobilise no more than a few hundred.
And yet the Trotskyites and revisionists want workers to believe that the Labour party is the party of the working class and can be used as an instrument for ushering in socialism in Britain!
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the east European socialist countries, the imperialist bourgeoisie was triumphalist, claiming that Marxism Leninism was dead. The present crisis has been a rude shock to it, demonstrating as it does that the case for socialism has never been greater. Capitalism, far from being eternal, is decadent, parasitic and moribund; it is the chief obstacle to the forward progress of humanity and the cause of the misery of the overwhelming majority.
Comrade Harpal continued by saying that our party is doing its best to bring ideological and theoretical clarity into the working-class movement while building a proper communist party, capable of connecting with the broad masses of the working class and leading it in its struggle for socialism through the overthrow of capitalism.
The working-class movement in Europe has gone through a period of several decades during which there was almost no resistance to capitalism. This state of affairs came about through a combination of the prosperity created by the special conditions that followed the second world war and the degeneration and demoralisation brought to our movement by Khrushchevite revisionism. As a result, the working-class movement appeared to have reached a permanent dead end.
However, as Marx once observed, “In developments of [great] magnitude, twenty years are no more than a day, though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embodied.” (Letter to Engels, 9 April 1862)
Looking at the unfolding crisis of imperialism, we would not be surprised if, in the not-too-distant future, we are witness to days in which four decades are embodied.
The defeat of the imperialist predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rising tide of militancy among the European working class are proof enough of this assertion.
Comrade Brar concluded his remarks by saying that communist parties all over the world have a duty to cooperate with each other. There is an urgent need to build an inclusive international communist movement that does not resort to bans and exclusions to stifle debate, nor strive to perpetuate the schisms and sectarianism brought into the movement by Khrushchevite revisionism.
The seminar was an excellent opportunity for delegates to exchange views with each other, during its formal sessions as well as outside of them. We would like to thank the PTB for inviting our party, and for the warm and generous hospitality delegates were shown.
The general conclusions of the seminar are embodied in a resolution, which can be read on the conference website: icsbrussels.org .