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
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
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,
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The crisis will grow deeper in due course, all its contradictions will grow
sharper, the aggressiveness of capital will gain in intensity and
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-
It is very important to study the modern imperialist pyramid in greater
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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”.
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
Plans are also being made to pass the Multinational Agreement on
Investments (MAI) through the back door in the new round of WTO
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
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.
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.