Friday, 29 September 2023

WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY: The political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International, against the theory of „socialism in one country“, against the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance Blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organization in close interrelationship with the working class, against all personal and electoral politics.

Capitalism is war (from Il programma comunista, no. 1/25 January 1991)

Over three decades have passed since our party published this work. During this time the main cast and supporting actors of the tragi-comedy of economic, political and military conflicts among capitalist States really got their act together. Switching roles among themselves, and improvising to the best of their ability, they never strayed from the story line imposed by capitalist relations of production.

During this thirty year period, and following hard upon the expansionary phase generated by the second gruelling inter-imperialist conflict, the crisis period of capital accumulation continued unabated its rollercoaster ride of pseudo-recoveries and far more tangible collapses (that of 2008 being the most significant), intensifying the deeply embedded causes of the imperialist clashes that are set to spark off a new, and necessary, inter-imperialist conflict.

Other works of ours trace and analyse the evolution of these clashes and the growing strengths and weaknesses of those involved, but the tenets underlying the critical analysis of this march towards conflict remain constant.

And the only strategy to hinder, interrupt and transform the war of Capital necessarily remains unchanged too; likewise the long, hard road to the organization of a proletarian opposition, cemented to the theory, principles, programme and tactics of the Communist Party, clear and decisive, in stark contrast to all those intellectuals of every order and degree who, like so many toxic, superfluous parasites, want to suck on the sufferings and energies of the vast majority of us  workforce sellers, making a career for themselves as the flunkies of capital. Not a penny, not one soldier for the wars of capital! Defeatism and no unity with bourgeois nations: transform the imperialist war between the bourgeois States into a revolutionary war within the bourgeois States.


Von Clausewitz’s definition of war as ‘the continuation of politics by other means’ (the politics, we would add, of the preservation of capital) suits bourgeois society down to a tee. So much so that it could easily be turned on its head to define politics as the perpetuation, by different means, of the permanent (albeit mostly clandestine) condition of war that is capitalism’s real mode of being and development. War between individual sets of capital in everyday economic life; trade wars between concentrations of capital (and thus, in the long run, between States too) for the possession of markets and supremacy in crucial sectors for the production or supply of raw materials; wars at first diplomatic, that later become out-and-out wars when those antagonisms intimately bound up with the process of capital expansion reach boiling point and seek their ‘solution’ in organized armed violence, in war tout court.

Of course, several factors must come together before the association between the consecutive stages of a single process becomes apparent, thus bringing to an ignominious end those intricate and widely propagated theories in favour of the oft-vaunted possibility that the various states of equilibrium reached in one of them should crystallise in a sort of ‘everlasting (albeit troubled) peace’… And so, before the outbreak of the 1990 Gulf Crisis (as the Secretary General of the UN, Pérez de Cuéllar, noted recently), it seemed that war was something that “belonged to another time”, an illusion which gained currency with the end of the bi-polarism between the US and USSR[1]. However, all it took was for an area of vital importance to capitalism (above all, US capitalism, but not only), in terms of energy supplies and, especially, in terms of safeguarding oil revenues, their distribution and a huge network of connected interests, to become an indissoluble knot of disputes on a purely economic and diplomatic level, that the spectre of military confrontation (whose definitive demise had just been announced) once again reared up its ugly head; and an apparently peripheral (“Third World”) conflict blew up into something almost planetary in nature; and, over and beyond the incidental reason for the conflict, a third world carnage looked an albeit remote possibility. The main players? The major economic powers of today: the USA, Japan, Germany, Europe in general.

Therefore, no matter how the present crisis [1991] pans out, the “war question” has very much been posed.

Two bootless solutions to the prospect of war

At the time of the Gulf crisis, two answers to the prospects of a war, however limited in scope, were forthcoming. Both illusory.

The first was a generic – and toothless – pacifism, consisting of petitions, protests and demos (peaceful, of course), which brought together social forces of the most diverse nature. A pacifism incapable of scratching beneath the surface of the question, and ready to shift its allegiances as soon as the sacred values of the homeland (or the no less sacred values of the nation) seemed harmed or simply threatened. Based on the increasingly anachronistic idea that wars can be “just” or “unjust”, this pacifism mutates into the most sinister interventionism – as history has confirmed time and again – whenever the imperatives of so called justice require it!

The second was more closely bound up with contingent factors (as, in this case, the rapprochement of East and West and all the sweet talk about a new “era of peace”) and – in common with all political persuasions – consisted of appealing to institutions teasingly invested with supranational roles and powers, which were deemed capable of imposing recognition of a pacifically established international order and resolving potential disagreements with diplomacy. Any vision which assumes history (and capitalism in particular) is regulated, or can be regulated, by laws, rights and conventions is absurd. Does the “world order” profaned by today’s chosen wrongdoer really take its origins, in turn, from something different from the interplay of forces and counterforces dominated by the great imperialist powers? Absurd. There are many so-called supranational authorities, and all of them are accountable to this or that power, or group of powers. The seven most industrialized countries, the famed G7, behave like a global business committee, more or less in agreement on the inside, and united towards the outside world. The UN’s Security Council acts as the right-hand man of the five permanent members of the same organization, whose opinions – homogeneous or otherwise – determine, in turn, what passes off as autonomous decisions of the Assembly’s members. Innumerable regional and inter-regional organisms seek to defend, where possible, the anything but “ideal” interests of power groups belonging to specific areas. And so on. The entire mechanism functions according to well-defined relations of economic, political and military strength, not international codes of good conduct, and its capacity to sanction rather than guarantee a certain “order” or, as it is called, a system of “international law”, depends on the degree to which one or more of the major powers manage to enforce their law – that is, the law of the strongest: the result of previous plunderings and sharings of spoils, they seek to ensure their preservation. As far as their origins and aims are concerned, international law and its organisms are far from being instruments of peace. In reality, they are weapons of war.

War is inescapable under capitalism

According to Marxism, not only is it true that wars are a necessary and inescapable product of the ruling mode of production, and the proletarian revolution alone can prevent their outbreak or violently interrupt their development. It is also true that, in periods of crisis, when the mechanism governing the accumulation of capital comes up short, wars are indeed the extreme remedy to which the bourgeoisie is compelled to resort to safeguard its own supremacy: through the mass destruction of capital, commodities and workforce – in short, of human beings and what they produce. This does not mean the bourgeoisie goes to war on the basis of carefully thought out calculations or the free decisions taken by their legislative and executive organisms. Rather it is the very existence of capitalism itself, its need to survive, that sparks off the mechanism of confrontation, from the preliminaries behind what will become the official declaration of war until its material, practical and ideological enactment. Wars don’t break out “by chance” or because certain individuals or groups will them to happen. They are the ultimate outlet for an objective situation that has been evolving over a broad series of contexts, only to explode where and when the economic power relations of the warring countries reach a breaking point. 

Once it has been invested, capital’s primary objective is reproduction with a profit: dominated by accumulation, the entire operating cycle of capitalism is thus geared to establishing unlimited production and, consequently, markets for its products. In each phase of the accumulation process, it is competition that first selects and causes individual capitals (or, to put it bluntly, individual capitalists) to clash; and then, as the need for accumulation becomes more intense, the collective bodies of production, the limited companies, the trusts, the multinationals – all of them, enterprises that are by tendency, or fully, monopolistic, whose interests, generally speaking, extend beyond national borders, but find their political expression and the upholder of their interests in the national State, the powerful machine organized in their defence. 

Now while, technically speaking, the production process grows uninterruptedly and limitlessly, boosted by the same volcanic character of commodity production, the potential for placing the products under the conditions of “profitability” required so that, in the conditions given, the process of accumulation isn’t interrupted, tends to decrease [2]: the “volcano of production” tends to come up against “the swamp of the market” which, instead of expanding, stagnates. Here, at the very heart of the capitalistic economy, the most violent of its contradictions explodes; and here the crisis of the system imposes recourse to extreme solutions in terms of strength. 

In the world’s most industrially advanced countries, entrepreneurs encounter serious limits investing accumulated capital because there is a complete or partial lack of locally available raw materials, indigenous manpower or markets for their finished goods. Today, the provision of non-local raw materials, the hiring of foreign labourers and the conquest of foreign markets, far from being achieved by purely economic means, or via mere competition, require continual effort to regulate and control prices of sale and purchase, and privileges gradually acquired by means of State measures or agreements among different states. Hence economic expansionism tends to transform itself from competitive to monopolistic, and finds its most characteristic expression in the form of finance, supported – where needs be – by powerful military means. Whether we are looking at controlling vast mineral deposits, masses to be proletarianized or target markets capable of absorbing the products of capitalist industrialisation, it is force that decides the outcome of the race towards the acquisition, control or direct command of increasingly vast sectors of the world economy. The global expression of the conflicts and crises resulting from this process is imperialism which, economically speaking, manifests itself in the process of centralization, whose point of arrival is the monopolistic organization of production and exchanges.

Through financial capital, powers like the USA, Japan, Germany and other European and non-European countries throw their weight around unopposed on the international economic stage today. They are ready to rush in to this or that adventure, to sign this or that agreement, or, conversely, to threaten and, eventually, attack one another, if only as a knee jerk reaction to the tendentious (and, in times of crisis, real) fall in rates of profit. But this can only be achieved by securing and seeking to maintain positions of strength against national and international competitors; and when two or more imperialist powers with incompatible vital interests collide, armed conflict – the mechanism typical of capitalism, nay, it’s very life blood – is necessarily set in motion.  Much is at stake here: on at least a temporary basis, the defeat of the crisis at the expense of the competitor and as a result of securing newly advantageous positions in terms of exploitation of resources and labour in the defeated country or countries; but, especially, the re-launching of the cycle of capital accumulation through the large scale destruction of commodities and labour, and the ensuing orgy of reconstruction. This objective – and this is the crucial point – is common to all: friends and enemies, belligerent and non-belligerent, winners and losers.

And today?

The chief victors to emerge from the World War II, Russia and the USA, are currently experiencing various levels of difficulty in maintaining the economic and political – and therefore, military – predominance they acquired following defeat of the Axis powers.  Hence the de facto degeneration of the Yalta Agreements, the caving in of the empire of the East, the unification of Germany and, at the same time, the political and economic collapse of the USSR and the albeit more leisurely decline in the USA’s status as a super power. Compared to yesteryear, competition in today’s world markets is dominated less by American and Russian capitals and commodities and more by those of America, Japan and Germany (not to mention, obviously, a cast of “bit part actors” whose potentially aggressive on stage presence cannot be ignored) – countries that may well become the protagonists of future imperialist conflicts, even if, for the time being [1991], the alliance between Atlantic and Pacific powers seems to be holding. The problem now dominating the agenda following the Gulf crisis and the US intervention in the Middle East is about who controls energy supplies and the cash flows of oil revenues (hitherto monopolized by the USA), and who holds sway – directly or indirectly – over their sources. Entwined with a thousand other vital issues, it is a central problem for those imperialistic groups currently allied with the USA, but which are already in fierce competition with her for the mouth-watering markets that opened up after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And this probably marks the first step towards an escalation in tensions between today’s friends. First, the opening up of the East, then the inclusion of the Gulf in America’s “vital space” (extended, for that matter, to the rest of the world!) tend to shift the incubation process of the war from a local or regional plane to a more general and, finally, planetary plane, through a “militarization” of economic conflicts; and then the prospect – ever more tangible following America’s intervention-occupation in the Arabian peninsula – of political and military formations of a different nature to those agreed at Yalta, building up in the already much-tormented Middle-Eastern area.

In the context of imperialism, given the unequal pace of development of the capitalistic economy, and the diverse stratification of the social and political forces in different countries as a result, it is the antagonisms among rival powers (even if not fundamentally important) that function as a detonator of worsening tensions between and within States. In the Middle-Eastern region, the long-repressed needs of Iraqi capitalism resulted in those most able to interpret those needs in the present historical contingency taking their place in history and command over the state apparatus: far from being this year’s uppity ‘barbarian’, whose wings urgently need clipping in the name of law and civilization, Sadaam Hussein is the interpreter of the materialist urgings that already lay at the heart of the attack on Iran, and now at the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent collapse of the precarious equilibrium in the area. The immensity of the interests concentrated here has sparked off mechanisms whose repercussions – well beyond the area in itself – on the worldwide capitalistic powder keg are already difficult to control today, let alone tomorrow. Whether the United States manages to unseat (or manoeuver) Sadaam or not, the weaving together of all these factors promises much more than simply having super-industrial metropolises on one side, and one or more backward or minor countries of a capitalistic nature on the other. Facing up to one another instead will be today’s dominant American imperialism, and other imperialistic powers which, up until today, have remained more or less directly under its wing politically, but which are economically in rapid ascendancy.  

Pacifism, defendism or defeatism

All these problems are already part and parcel of the Marxists’ revolutionary consciousness, epitomized by the class party. Their solution is absolutely distinct from that of any other social and political force, which deems possible and, what is more, effective the humanity’s fight against the regime and logic of monopoly, to bring about a fair distribution of resources among States, as well as a peaceful coexistence in the name of justice, or even brotherhood.

For Marxism there is no therapy or surgical intervention within the capitalist mode of production that can circumscribe and, in the end, eliminate the bubo of imperialistic conflicts.  We cannot be pacifists or “against war” because that would mean admitting war can be eliminated before capitalism, thereby yoking further still the proletarian masses to capital (and hence to war) and diverting them from their historical class mission. The entire propaganda campaign on behalf of peace, and against the “provocateurs” ostensibly responsible for the armed conflicts, doesn’t wash with us; indeed, it goes against the ultimate objectives underlying the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and, with it, humanity as a whole.

Proletarians shouldn’t be asked which side they’re on in a war, in defence of postulates that go from individual freedom to political democracy, from equality among men to “socialism in one country only” and its defence, from the rights of men and civilians to the safeguarding of the “rights of peoples” – all of which converge in the mighty effort to keep alive a mode of production and a society that are bleeding from every pore. The vicious circle of crises and wars, which is actually the life-blood of the developmental process of capitalism, must be broken. And only the communist revolution can tear it asunder.

Owning this fact is the necessary prerequisite even for the defence of the proletariat’s immediate working and living conditions, because the united class struggle against capital is unhinged by the inter-classism that is inseparable from all kinds of pacifism and the national solidarity propagandized by bourgeois defendism.

This struggle cannot be limited to the confines of one country: either it is international, or it loses its meaning, its value, its force.

Its first prerequisite is the rebirth of the class-conscious organisation of a party built around revolutionary defeatism towards the bourgeoisie, and whose ultimate objective is the destruction of the capitalistic order and the establishment of communism.

[1] It should be noted that for years this bi-polarism had been seen as a guarantee of general peace (excepting the occasional peripheral conflict) in the form of a “balance of terror”!

[2] “On the other hand, there is periodically a production of too many means of production and necessities of life to permit of their serving as means for the exploitation of the laborers at a certain rate of profit. Too many commodities are produced to permit of a realisation of the value and surplusvalue contained in them under the conditions of distribution and consumption peculiar to capitalist production, that is, too many to permit of the continuation of this process without ever recurring explosions. It is not a fact that too much wealth is produced. But it is true that there is periodical overproduction of wealth in its capitalistic and self-contradictory form” (Marx, Capital, Volume III, Section III, Chapter XV: Unraveling the Internal Contradictions of the Law).


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