Contribution of the Workers’ Party of Ireland to the Extraordinary Teleconference of the IMCWP, 11th December 2021
The theme: The international economic, political, and military developments. The experience from the struggle of the Communist and Workers' Parties and the peoples. Solidarity with Cuba, the Palestinian people, and all the peoples struggling against sanctions, machinations, and imperialist aggression.
I wish to thank the KKE and TKP for their efforts in organising this teleconference aad providing the opportunity for the Workers Party of Ireland to address the meeting.
It is appropriate given the ongoing attacks on the Cuban and Palestinian people that the theme of the meeting addresses their struggles.The common denominator affecting Cuba, the Palestinians, sanctions, and aggression is rightly summed up by the meeting hosts as falling under the term imperialist aggression.
Modern Imperialism, of course, is not just a regrettable moral failing in which the powerful countries conquer and dominate the weaker ones. This is what the liberal bourgeoisie – the dominant fraction of the western ruling class – use to impose a collective guilt on their own populations. Rather, we understand imperialism as a necessary consequence of the capitalist system and its eternal need for ever-increasing profits.
The great worry of the capitalist class is that there is an alternative to capitalism. This is why there is to this day continued vilification of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc, as with the repression in Ukraine and Poland and the European Parliament’s ignorant equation of the USSR with the Nazi regime.
It is why today there is constant pressure on Cuba, to bring it back into the capitalist fold after 60 years.
For the great sin of Cuba is not just that it prevents American capital from looting the island but its disobedience and defiance, its refusal to bend the knee to the leading power in world capitalism. Cuba’s example serves as potential pole of resistance, first of all in Latin America, but also to every country whose people are less than thrilled at being vassals of the USA.
Likewise the continued resistanceof the Palestinian people demonstrates that Israeli settler-colonialism is not omnipotent and that in the face of tremendous pressure the people canoppose imperialism.
I should mention too, the grave suffering and brave resistance of the Syrian people in the face of the combined aggression of the Gulf monarchies, Zionism, and US imperialism, which together have unleashed hordes of reactionary Jihadis against that country bringing untold suffering and preventing its development.
Comrades, since 1991, the capitalist system considers itself triumphant. But the mere existence of these peoples illustrates that even under the most desperate of conditions that there will be resistance.
The increased aggression by the American and Nato forces of the last few years is a demonstration not just of arrogance and raw power but a reflection of recurring crises within the system itself. The USA with its absolute control over the world’s reserve currency is effectively levying a tax on the rest of the world. As it maximises the exploitation of its own proletariat there is an objective pressure to seek out, destroy less developed countries and reap the super-profits that result from a renewed primitive accumulation in the aftermath.
But as foreseen back in the 1970s, unrestrained use of the dollar as the reserve currency results in a degradation of the United States’ own productive capacity, as the temptation to resort to low cost imports trumps the need to maintain its own industrial base, which after all brings with it the unpleasant reality of an organised industrial working class.
The degradation of American capitalism is reflected in the rise of internal ethnic conflict there, as social progress for black Americans has dramatically fallen compared to the post-war era in which black Americans worked alongside white Americans and together they won concessions from the ruling class.
With the advent of the capitalist offensive of the 1980s, these social gains ground to a halt and progress in racial equality was replaced by subjective concerns that obsess about people’s thoughts.
The system of capital accumulation has by no means reached its end; but it is approaching a crisis point. The levels of capital accumulation in the western capitalist states is immense, far greater than it has ever been. Not only does this lead to environmental degradation, it leads to difficulties for the capitalists in finding further profitable investments, thereby leading the system itself into periodic crisis, again impelling it abroad to seek renewed profits and thereby driving the imperialist aggression that so marks the modern era.
Despite these huge levels of capital accumulation public services in the west continue to be cut; privatisations continue. The cost of living rises for everyone, workers, small farmers, and students alike. The working class in the advanced capitalist states has a higher cost of living than previous generations and the prospect for the next generation is even worse.
Marx noted that revolutionary periods do not result from economic crises alone; epoch shifting revolutions such as 1789 or 1917 were the political manifestation of longer term trends which brought the economic conditions of the time – nascent capitalism – into contradiction with the political systems inherited from the pre-capitalist era.
The question which we, as a movement of communist and workers parties, face is whether there is a fundamental contradiction ripening between the necessary conditions for the development of the forces of production and the present social and political systems.
It is our view, so far as Europe is concerned, the political system capped by the European Union is coming into contradiction with the needs of industrial development. European capitalism is falling behind American and Chinese production and the EU is incapable of co-ordinating large-scale and long-term investments in advanced production.
The EU itself is a political project encompassing the neo-imperialist exploitation of the eastern and southern working people on behalf of, in particular, German capital in alliance with others. While highly successful in maintaining the profitability for German capital it is not at all clear that they can maintain technological parity with the USA and China. Hence the major technological corporations are almost always American.
As well as taking profoundly reactionary positions on forging policy questions such as Syria, Russia, and China, the EU’s insistence of bringing in millions of migrants as cheap labour only adds fuel to the fire of social unease. Combined with large-scale youth unemployment and poor prospects for the younger generations, the political inability of the EU to forge a way for European capitalism to compete on a world scale must sooner or later lead to an immense political and social crises which the political infrastructure of the European Union cannot resolve.
The inability of the EU political system to solve the problems posed the competitive pressure of international capitalism generates the contradiction through which a new social system can emerge. Although that situation is developing, at this juncture, our task as communists is to work with the mass labour movement, clarify the nature of modern European capitalism and develop the lines of a political and social system that clearly stands as an alternative to the EU.
The first and most obvious reaction to the failure of the European Union to satisfy both the needs of elements of each state’s own national bourgeoisie and large fractions of the population is the rise of the populist-nationalist, sometimes outright fascist political movements in many states.
Their rise is not an arbitrary phenomenon but a reflection of the pressures felt by both a sector of the national bourgeoisie and reflected by increasing numbers of workers.
This is a predictable reaction to the manifest failure of the EU to create the economic conditions that can satisfy the populations of the constituent states. They are providing clear answers as to which state should run their country. They want a return of sovereignty to Paris, Rome etc.
The fact that the answers of the populist-right cannot solve the fundamental contradictions of capitalism does not mean that they will not be popular in the short term. The people are getting desperate and in the absence of a socialist-labour movement that can pose as an alternative, they are liable to drift reluctantly to the right.
But the populist-nationalist right is not the only threat looming on the horizon. Indeed, it is the lesser of the threats, albeit the one that is constantly played up in the capitalist press. The bigger threat now emanates from the liberal-left wing of the ruling class. Speaking the language of tolerance it actually wields a profound intolerance about those who question its dogma.
This liberal-left has the backing of the most powerful elements in western bourgeois society: the major capitalist corporations, the media, both the traditional press and social media; and the security states. Unfortunately, the liberal-left encompasses quite often the so-called radical left as well. Because of their desperation to be radical and to oppose fascism – a worthy goal of course – they accede to the narrative that it is the populist-right that is the pre-eminent threat.
But it is the liberal-left who instigate as many, if not more, of the bombings and invasions perpetrated by NATO; they just tend to weep a bit more about killing people. In destroying countries they also undermine the prospects for social and political development, as well as forcing millions of migrants to European shores, thereby fueling the rise of the populist-nationalist right in turn.
It is the liberal-left who push the extreme capitalist system that deregulates markets, privatises publicly owned firms, restricts social welfare and training, and has been at the forefront at moving production to the far East.
The effect has been to relegate class politics as the primary political conflict, a position it has occupied since The Communist Manifesto in 1848. The enormity of this change in Europe cannot be over-emphasised as it places real pressure on Communist and Workers parties to relegate class politics in favour of a radical identity politics, a pressure to which it has so far resisted but to which many European radical left parties have succumbed.
Given the obsession of the radical left with identity politics, there is no prospect of them ever challenging the capitalist class. They will forever chase, what in the Anglophone states is a mere phantom, i.e., fascism, but which seems to be the core concern of the majority of progressive activists.
This primacy of identity politics in the Anglo-phone world places the socialist-labour movement in a difficult position. The ruling class and its state and media apparatus are consciously polarising the people along a liberal-left vs nationalist-right dichotomy. In either case the working class lose. And this is quite deliberate.
Given the desperate shortage of resources at our disposal it is not clear how we can avoid being impelled on the horns of this dilemma but surely it is necessary to reject the framework of identity politics and reaffirm the centrality of working class politics and international solidarity against all forms of imperialist aggression.
Quite probably it requires a lead from the parties outside of the Anglophone west, as they may still operate in an environment in which the plague of identity politics has not propagandised the population to the same degree. But ultimately it places a grave responsibility on the Communist and Workers parties to resist the sirens of identity politics that lulls so many otherwise good leftwing activists down a cul-de-sac of bourgeois politics.
Now, more than ever, the vision of the Communist and Workers parties, which combines respect for the sovereignty of states, the necessity of central planning, and solidarity between peoples can be advanced as an alternative to the catastrophe which an increasingly decadent capitalism is inexorably driving western civilisation.