The war in Ukraine is getting bogged down in barbarism, an irrational and infernal spiral where death and ruins are piling up. The “high intensity” war has taken hold in Europe, giving a colossal boost to all the damage that has already struck the world before it. Militarism and imperialist tensions are increasing, as we have seen, for example, between China and the US last summer over Taiwan, with the corollary of increasing global chaos.
War accentuates the fragmentation and disorganisation of world production and trade; it fuels inflation and generates new shortages. The economic crisis, also aggravated by the increase in military expenditure, has led to new trade wars between every country, to the point where certain strategic decisions, such as the adoption by the United States of a $369 billion programme designed to attract business, was interpreted by its European rivals as a veritable “act of war”, a situation which made them fear the massive de-industrialisation of the Old Continent. Everywhere, shortages are threatening vital sectors such as energy or medicines, and even certain foodstuffs.
The deepening of the crisis is itself contributing to the increased plundering of resources and, ultimately, to the multiplication of “natural” and industrial disasters. Fires that have devasted entire regions, droughts and record temperatures, floods and other extreme climatic phenomena have all worsened the state of society as a whole.
At the same time, the Covid pandemic has spread with the Omicron variant. It poses the threat of further mutations from China, where millions of infected people and hundreds of thousands of additional victims are evidence of the worsening of the already dire conditions of an economy in crisis, further damaging depleted health systems.
The year 2022 is not just a dramatic confirmation of these dynamics and miasma, a mere annus horribilis. It marks a further step in the deadly trajectory of capitalism. Society is sinking deeper and faster into chaos at all levels and no one can believe the rhetoric of the ruling class, asking for more belt tightening for a more than hypothetical “better future”.
In reality, the logic that generates the disasters combined in a real spiral of destruction comes from the crisis and the historical limits of the capitalist mode of production and not from “bad leaders” or from “neoliberal mismanagement”, so much denounced by the left-wing parties of the bourgeoisie. It is the product of the contradictions of capitalism which, like all modes of production of the past, is a transitory system, now obsolete. It is through its irreversible decline that capitalism plunges humanity further into the abyss. After having plunged the African continent and the Middle East into chaos and barbarism, the decomposition of capitalism is now brutally striking the most powerful countries on the planet.
With no perspective or solution other than to see its own system sink into barbarism, the bourgeoisie only generates despair and the idea of “every man for himself”, turning inward and fortifying its borders, pushing for the rejection of migrants, castigating “super-profits” to better justify and make people accept exploitation and growing pauperisation. The populist demonstrations, mirroring these rotten ideologies typical of the period of decomposition of capitalism, pushed Trump’s fanatical supporters to violently enter the Capitol two years ago, with only vandalism as an outlet. More recently, the vindictive gangs of supporters of Bolsonaro also attached government premises, leaving in the background the spectre of a civil war with incalculable consequences.
Faced with these scourges, which make the world unbearable to live in and the ruling class nervous, only the working class can offer a perspective by developing its struggles against the attacks of capital and against this world in ruins. Thus, the recent demonstrations and strikes around the world, after years of apathy, have been a reminder that class struggle is still a necessity. In the UK, with the continuing strike wave, those in the US and Europe that have taken place in many sectors, the huge demonstrations that mobilised between one and two million people on 19 January in France against the pension reform, all these movements show the way to take confidence in our own forces and try to recover, in the long term, a lost class identity.
However, this arduous struggle is already strewn with pitfalls. The proletariat must be wary of its false friends, the unions and the left and far-left parties of the bourgeoisie, state forces whose role is to contain and sabotage the struggles.
The long road of the class response highlights, moreover, the particular responsibility of the most experienced and concentrated fraction of the world proletariat, that of the working class bastions of Western Europe. The working class will only be able to assert itself on the basis of this historical experience, that of an autonomous struggle, on a firm class terrain. It must not allow itself to be drawn into sterile movements, without perspective and dangerous for its unity and its consciousness. On the contrary, it must be wary of “popular” revolts or inter-classist struggles which drown the interests of the proletariat in the “people of the nation” and hand it over hand and foot to the settling of scores between fractions of the bourgeoisie. The working class must turn away from movements like those in Iran, China this autumn and Peru more recently, movements in which proletarians find themselves trapped on the terrain of the bourgeoisie: the defence of bourgeois democracy or struggles around feminism, i.e. demanding that the ruling class kindly “reform” its rotten system. While these movements may express legitimate anger, such as the intolerable situation of women in Iran, they nonetheless drag workers behind petty-bourgeois ideologies or behind some bourgeois clique, thus diverting the proletariat from its autonomous struggles, an essential aspect of the development of class consciousness.
Revolutionaries have an enormous responsibility here and an indispensable role in warning the working class of these many pitfalls and dangers. They must defend the future that belongs only to the class struggle and its specific methods of combat. Let’s come together! Let’s take charge of our struggles through collective discussions and initiatives! Let’s defend our own class autonomy! Proletarians of all countries, unite!
WH, 19 January 2023