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AUSTRALIAN
MARXIST
REVIEW

Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 41 NOVEMBER 1999

Confronting the Capitalist Crisis

Speech by Comrade Aleka Paparigha, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece, at the international meeting of communist and workers parties of May 21 to 23, 1999 in Athens on: The Crisis of Capitalism, “Globalisation” and the Response of the Labour Movement.

Our meeting is being held today under the dark shadow of the Euro-Atlantic war against Yugoslavia.

This is a tragic event which constitutes one of the most representative expressions of the capitalist crisis and of the trends and contradictions that appeared in the modern imperialist system after the victory of the counter-revolutionary forces during the period between 1989 and 1991.

With NATO’s new action doctrine, and its implementation in practice in Yugoslavia, the entire system of international security that was created after two world wars is in a state of crisis.

A new chapter is opening and not for the Balkans alone, but for the whole world.

Both we and the peoples must be ready to face the NATO multinational forces, military and terrorist operations. There can be no complacency whatsoever, because crisis and inter-imperialist rivalries will bring new operations in many places around the world.

The CPG believes that the most immediate and basic issue is to demand a halt to the war, or the withdrawal of governments from the war, and to demand that NATO troops should not be deployed either in Kosovo or in Yugoslavia more generally on the pretext of arbitration or upholding the peace.

From this podium, we would like to salute:

  • the decisions on the part of Communist, Workers, left and other progressive parties to condemn this new imperialist barbarism,
  • the announcements by the Communist Parties of the Balkan countries, by Communist and Workers Parties in NATO member states,
  • the announcement by the Communist and Workers Parties of the Arab Countries, the initiative by AKEL in Nicosia against the bombing,
  • the announcement by the parties from all over Europe taking part in it, and
  • the constant demonstrations, protests and events held in solidarity with the suffering people of Yugoslavia.

During the meeting held in Athens in January to prepare the topics for our meeting today, there was a fertile, rich discussion and an exchange of views about themes related to the crisis and so-called “globalisation”.

What we remember is the discussions that took place on these issues between the parties of GUE/NGL; many documents from congresses such as that of the Communist Party of India (M), the South African Communist Party, the Portuguese CP, the CP of Spain, the Communist and Workers Party of Russia, the CP of the Russian Federation, the Union of CP-CPSU; the appeal regarding the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), signed by the CPs of the USA, Canada and Australia; the interesting articles that have appeared in Party newspapers and magazines; and the meetings of economists organised in Cuba and other countries of Latin America.

Please allow me to move on now to some issues of concern to our Party that are related to the theme of this meeting, and to put forward some of our views.

On “globalisation”

The views about globalisation expressed by bourgeois politicians, intellectuals and scientists are in the nature of a fragmentary report, since phenomena are presented in an isolated way, detached from their relationship with this society’s mode of production. The laws that drive the capitalist mode of production are concealed, as are the conditions for its abolition, which exist within it.

The modern trends in the global capitalist economy accentuate the exploitative and barbaric nature of the capitalist system in the imperialist stage, with the following very characteristic features — unemployment, poverty, hunger and misery take gigantic dimensions, as it is no longer easy for capitalism to blunt or to temporarily check their manifestation, with the classical methods once used.

In spite of the fact that, internationally, the correlation of forces remains negative, the fact is nonetheless becoming increasingly manifest that the margins for manoeuvres for the capitalist system are growing desperately narrower.

The basic economic contradiction in capitalism becomes deeper and more acute. The conflict between imperialism and the peoples of the dependent, oppressed countries is becoming more intense as the inter-imperialist antagonisms become sharper and the imperialists pursuit of domination and their rapacious exploitation of the peoples is stepped up.

The hot spots of local wars are being expanded; the dangers of new wars and nationalist confrontations are increasing. Regular nuclear testing continues. Humanity cannot feel sure that the danger of a more general military clash has been avoided.

The pollution of the atmosphere, the irreversible damage to the animal and vegetable realms, the transformation of developing countries into disposal areas for the wastes of the imperialist forces and into sites for polluting industries show that the environment has proved to be a sensitive indicator of imperialism’s mania for destruction.

New technologies in the hands of the monopolies not only fail to increase the people’s opportunities for access to knowledge, but are being used to exercise greater control and manipulation. High technology co-exists alongside phenomena of absolute and functional illiteracy and low educational levels.

There are analogous repercussions from the influence of monopoly control over the direction of scientific research.

We would point out that on this fundamental issue, the process of arriving at an agreement between the liberal ideology and the social democratic viewpoint has already gone ahead. This phenomenon is now obvious in Western Europe.

The agreement is being extended to many countries or regions to include forces that stand to the left of social democracy, aiming at a collaboration with it, under the now familiar title of the centre-left.

The centre-left today, especially after the war against Yugoslavia, has shown its true face, demonstrating that it leads with mathematical certainty to trapping forces into supporting both capitalist restructuring and the aggressive NATO doctrine.

The fashioning of the term “globalisation” into a myth with mystic overtones has been accompanied by the promotion of a system of concepts according to which the various associations, organisations and alliances devised by imperialism all have the characteristics of a one-way street, an irrevocable decision.

In this way an effort is made not only to limit or debase any resistance to their choices, but also to make it virtually inconceivable for peoples and movements, countries and regions to seek alternative forms of co-operation on the basis of mutual interest.

An effort is being made to eliminate from the orientations of the labour movement even the thought of the prospect of socialism on a national level or for a group of countries.

We consider it our duty to show the peoples that the imperialist associations, international and regional, whether loosely or tightly organised, are forms of capitalist integration; that they serve the vested interests of big capital and consequently are subject to the laws of the class struggle.

This is how we treat the EU and NATO, which certainly does not hinder, but even makes it easier for us to have a direct intervention in all fronts of struggle.

The recent crisis of 1997-1998

We consider it very important to keep studying the development of the capitalist crisis and to monitor its cycle which certainly does not appear in a synchronised way, but also within the imperialist organisations, among the member states.

For Greece, for example, a characteristic feature is that the circle of crisis appears more frequently than in other EU countries, which is due also to its lower dependent position.

The 1997-98 crisis has all the features of a classic over-production crisis. There was an unprecedented drop in the prices of raw materials, as the price index for the 22 most important commodities fell to the lowest levels in 26 years, and the prices of industrial products were at a standstill.

The crisis will grow deeper in due course, all its contradictions will grow sharper, the aggressiveness of capital will gain in intensity and brutality.

We must all follow the developments, so that subjective factors are prepared and educated accordingly.

The crisis contains a dynamic that could radicalise broader social strata; but for this to be expressed politically and to be channelled toward the dispute of and disengagement from the present state of affairs, requires a correct and clear orientation, the right strategy and considered tactics on a national and international level.

Today, it is not enough to talk about organising the struggle around the various problems or about looking for more effective means of developing this political awareness. This issue must constitute a central issue for the communist movement.

Because alongside this radicalisation, there is a growing tendency to passivity, disillusionment, disenchantment with politics, and giving up the struggle. This tendency is being reinforced by the policy pursued by capital and the bourgeois parties, and is becoming stronger to the degree that the communists continue to have delays or deficiencies in this field.

The danger of incorrect or wrong choices is always present and sometimes heightened, therefore it is vitally necessary to ensure constant vigilance, particularly under the present conditions of victory by the counter- revolution.

It is very important to study the modern imperialist pyramid in greater depth.

In our view, we must all work hard and make an effort to exchange experiences and data so that we can study more deeply the modern imperialist pyramid, and the composite, multiform, complex relationships being developed in the hierarchy of this pyramid, as well as the conflicts that occur.

At the top of the imperialist pyramid is a system composed of a handful of countries: the Group of Seven, or G7, the most powerful imperialist countries which exert their domination and intensify their oppression in the greater part of the world, through a dense network of international organisations, agreements, threats and extortions.

The US, Japan, and the four European countries are the leaders in the three imperialist centres that have been created. Recently, the Russian Federation has also been taking part, with a special status.

But around the leading powers and their centres, there are certain countries that play the role of the regional enforcer of imperialist policy; some claim this role, others are in a more or less permanent position of dependence and inferiority, and yet others function merely as pawns.

There are countries, and here we can mention our own country Greece, which find themselves in a field of sharpened imperialist conflicts between the leading countries, and play the dual and two-faced role of both oppressor and oppressed.

The general view is that the US holds the top position in the imperialist pyramid today. Of course the facts that we all know confirm this assessment.

However, we should not underestimate the views of the international organisations and officials who believe that the competition between, for example, the EU and the USA has not yet been decided but is still evolving.

Some believe that the game has been won today by the US, while others predict that the US has a profound crisis just ahead.

The problem is that frequently the discovery of the leading role of the US is used as an excuse to lighten the burden of responsibility on the other imperialist forces in critical issues like the war in Yugoslavia.

In Greece and elsewhere, an effort is being made to portray the participation of the EU in this war as an example of weakness and not as a conscious class choice.

All the evidence demonstrates that the inroads made against the workers gains have a more general class character; this does not arise exclusively from the hegemony of the US but also from the needs of the capitalist system.

Likewise, it should not be forgotten that the disintegration of Yugoslavia started from a European initiative, bearing the seal of Germany, that the EU provoked the intervention of the US beyond and independently of the US inclination not to leave the matter on a purely European level.

Regarding militant confrontation with the crisis

  1. In our opinion, our attention should always be focused on the growing social repercussions arising from changes in the structure of employment and the economy (increased profits and the rapid rise in the unemployment rate, the stagnation and even decline of salaries and wages, while the working peoples productivity is increasing).

    There are also effects on the political awareness and behaviour of the working people, young people, women and other segments of the society.

    It should be noted that in some countries, there are positive trends which should be supported. There are increasingly frequent cases occurring of strikes and other mobilisations by the working people that do not have the approval of compromised trade union leaderships, or are in direct conflict and dispute with the policy of the class collaboration that they follow.

    This constitutes significant evidence of manifest health on the part of the working people and their will to fight to prevent the capitalists from making their living and working conditions constantly worse.

    This struggle by the working class expresses just one aspect of its clash with capital, the aspect of resisting the trend to a growing deterioration of its situation in bourgeois society.

    Comparing the results of this struggle, in our view, shows that whatever benefits the working class may have extracted from the capitalist class:

    • the gap between the social situation of the working people and that of the capitalists is constantly widening, and
    • all the important gains made by the working class during this period, such as the 8-hour day, the five-day week, social security, lower retirement age and others, are now being revoked.
  2. We could develop a large, co-ordinated and persistent campaign to inform the working people about where the character of the measures taken under the general title of “flexibility in the labor market” are leading, about where flexible working hours; the abolition of the 8-hour day, the spread of part-time work and piece work, etc. are leading.

    Undoubtedly one of the most significant forms of the working class financial struggle is the fight for a shorter working day. But the question that arises is the following: even if shorter working hours mitigate the problem of unemployment somewhat, can this reduction by itself rid the capitalist society of unemployment?

    Can the working class effectively keep up with technological change, making technology their servant, solely by fighting from below against forces that serve the interests of capital?

    Can there ultimately be a way out of the working class’s financial struggle against the effects of capitalist accumulation that will neither reproduce the causes of the crisis, nor lead to more intense crises?

    There is no doubt that the struggles being waged against the capitalists by the working people to improve their lot constitute a significant aspect of the class struggle; nevertheless, in these struggles the working people are still fighting against effects rather than the causes of these effects.

    This, in our view, underscores the need for political struggle by the working class and the other working people, creating possibilities to challenge the system itself.

    We point to the need for the economic struggle to be directly linked with the political struggle and ultimately for the former to be subjected to the latter.

    This problem, which is an old one for the communist movement, is being put forward today in new terms.

    Consequently, an effort must be made by the working class and other popular strata to become ever more deeply acquainted with the essence of imperialism, with the character and nature of imperialist associations, and with the causes of the imperialist war.

  3. Another serious element in the ideological and political intervention of the labour movement, in our view, should be the systematic criticism of the various forms of management that are put forward as alternative proposals for remedying crisis, unemployment, poverty and even war, e.g. views “borrowed” from the period of Keynesian arrangements that turn a blind eye to the facts; or other proposals of a completely Utopian nature, which suppose that our age might return to pre-monopoly capitalism.

    Promoting the realistic prospect and necessity of socialism is one of our most important duties, in our view, not simply as a nostalgic view of the past, but as a strategic goal that can influence the daily individual fronts of struggle and the alliances which today can realistically and necessarily move in an anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist direction.

  4. An integral part of the struggle to solve the working peoples financial and social problems and to deal with unemployment, poverty and austerity, must also be the struggle against the new NATO doctrine.

    The working class with its allies must stand up against militarisation, which is now pervading the whole social life of various countries.

    The appropriate preparation is required as well as training in order to deal with the phenomena of violence and despotism, and of state and parastate terrorism against popular movements.

    Today the communist and workers parties, through our co-ordinated and common actions, must contribute to creating a new countervailing fear, the one of the peoples, of the social and political forces that fight against the monopolies and imperialism, against the logic of the “one-way street”.

  5. In the same way, we must confront the effort to make the creation of a global rule “that will supposedly impose order on capitalist anarchy, intra-capitalist conflicts and competition, and will promote equality” look like a realistic alternative.

    These plans will be presented during the 55th General Assembly of the United Nations in September of 2000, at the Millennium Assembly; as they call it.

    Plans are also being made to pass the Multinational Agreement on Investments (MAI) through the back door in the new round of WTO negotiations.

  6. Another problem which is very urgent today is dealing with the problems associated with the bad situation in which the trade union movement of the working class generally finds itself, notwithstanding the fact that signs of recovery have begun to appear recently in some countries.

    Conquering the class character of the trade union movement under modern conditions is a matter of vital importance to the labour movement, and to its alliances with other popular strata.

  7. Within the framework of our efforts to encourage co-ordination and common action against the imperialist world order, we propose that a new meeting be held on the topic:

    World security and confronting the imperialist aggression that jeopardises world peace.

Let us develop our immediate goals, comrades, and let us defend the future of our movement.

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