(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 22, 2009
International Communist Movement in the 21st Century
demise of the
In the then prevailing situation, when some parties were abandoning the communist ideal and the Red flag, efforts were made to regroup the international communist movement. The CPI(M) had made one such effort in May 1993 where 25 communist parties attended a seminar on the ‘Contemporary Relevance and Validity of Marxism – Leninism’ at Kolkata.
after a series of discussions
amongst fraternal parties, an international working group was
consider the possibilities of holding regular annual meetings on
themes. Thus began the current process, at the initiative of the
Party of Greece to hold annual meetings. After seven annual meetings
From a group of 25 parties that met at Kolkata in 1993, now to this 11th international meeting are invited 111 parties from 87 countries.
The consolidation of this process leading to the strengthening of the communist movement in the 21st century will however depend on how we draw the correct lessons from the experience of socialism in the 20th century and upon a correct estimation and assessment of the working of imperialism in the current phase of global capitalism.
SOCIALISM IN THE
a source of inspiration to all
peoples of the world who are in the midst of struggle for social
The decisive role played by the
The achievements of the socialist countries -- the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the elimination of unemployment, the vast network of social security in the fields of education, health, housing, etc. -- provided a powerful impetus to the working people all over the world in their struggles.
World capitalism met this challenge to its order, partly by adopting welfare measures and granting rights that it never conceded to the working people before. The entire conception of a welfare state and the social security network created in the post-second world war capitalist countries was a result of the struggles of the working people in these countries inspired by the achievements of socialism. The democratic rights that are today considered as inalienable from human civilisation are also the product of the people's struggle for social transformation and not the charity of bourgeois class rule.
These revolutionary transformations brought about qualitative leaps in human civilisation and left an indelible imprint on modern civilisation. This was reflected in all fields of culture, aesthetics, science, etc. While Eisenstein revolutionised cinematography, the Sputnik expanded the frontiers of modern science to outer space.
such tremendous advances, that too
under the most exacting of circumstances and hostile environment, why
that the mighty
generally speaking, two areas where
wrong understanding and consequent errors were committed. The first
the nature of assessments of contemporary world realities and about the
concept of socialism. The second concerns the practical problems
during the period of socialist construction.
unprecedented and path-breaking
advances made by socialism in the 20th century,
it must be borne in mind that all
socialist revolutions barring a few (not all)
On the other hand, given the pace and qualitatively higher advances made by socialism in a relatively short span (recall that the Soviet Union came to match the might of the fascist military machine in less than a decade -- what took capitalism 300 years was accomplished by socialism in 30!) led to a belief that such advances were irreversible. The Leninist warning that the vanquished bourgeoisie will hit back with a force a hundred times stronger was not fully taken into account.
Further, socialism was perceived as a linear progression. Once socialism was achieved, it was erroneously thought that the future course was a straight line without any obstacles till the attainment of a classless, Communist society. Experience has also confirmed that socialism is the period of transition or, as Marx said, the first stage of the Communism -- the period between a class-divided exploitative capitalist order and the classless Communist order. This period of transition, therefore, by definition implies, not the elimination of class conflicts but its intensification, with world capitalism trying to regain its lost territory. This period, therefore, was bound to be a protracted and complex one with many a twist and turn and many a zigzag. This was particularly so in these countries which were capitalistically backward at the time of the revolution.
The success or failure of the forces of world socialism in this struggle, at any point of time, is determined both by the success achieved in socialist construction and the international and internal correlation of class forces and their correct estimation. Incorrect estimations leading to an underestimation of the enemy both without and within the socialist countries and the overestimation of socialism had created a situation where the problems confronting the socialist countries were ignored as well as the advances and consolidation of world capitalism.
Lenin had always reminded us that the living essence of dialectics is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. If the analysis falters or the true appreciation of the actual situation is faulty, then erroneous understandings and distortions surface.
It is such
distortions and, importantly,
deviations from the revolutionary content of Marxism-Leninism in later
In the process of socialist construction, major errors were committed in four areas viz the character of the state under socialism; deepening and enriching socialist democracy; economic construction under socialism and weaknesses in the task of strengthening the ideological consciousness of the people.
In other words the experience of socialism in the 20th century and its reverses do not constitute either a negation of the revolutionary tenets of Marxism-Leninism as a creative science or a negation of the socialist ideal.
The international communist movement in the 21st century will to a large extent be strengthened by overcoming these shortcomings in evolving the strategy and tactics for the establishment of socialism in individual countries.
Additionally, the degree of success of the advance of the international communist movement will be determined by a correct estimation of the correlation of class forces internationally and the dynamics of how contemporary imperialism is unfolding in a period when such a correlation is in its favour, albeit temporarily.
Before we proceed to discuss the manner in which imperialism has embarked on the process of strengthening its overall hegemony through globalisation and militarism, it is necessary to clear certain common misconceptions.
Lenin had defined imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism - “Eve of the Socialist Revolution”. Many have mechanically sought to interpret this to mean the imminency of the collapse of capitalism and the rise of socialism. However, within a stage in the historical framework, there are and can be many phases through which imperialism or, for that matter, any social order can develop. Therefore, there are different phases of imperialism while it continues to remain the last stage of capitalism. These phases are determined by the unfolding of the fundamental laws of capitalist development and the attendant levels of capital accumulation and importantly within the political conjuncture where this is happening.
in the immediate post-Second World
War period, when the balance of class forces in the world favoured
imperialism moved into a different phase to meet that specific
conjuncture. Within the capitalist
Given the fact that the political correlation of forces internationally has shifted in its favour, imperialism has been permitted circumstances whereby the quest of profit maximisation can proceed unhindered aided by colossal levels of capital accumulation leading to the emergence of international finance capital (IFC). This is one of the salient features of the post-Cold War world capitalism. Lenin in Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalis had defined finance capital as capital “controlled by banks and employed by industrialists”. Further, unlike in Lenin's time, IFC operates not in the pursuit of specific strategic interests of specific nations but internationally. It also operates in a world not riven by intense inter-imperialist rivalry but in a world where such rivalry is muted by the very emergence of this international finance capital which seeks to operate over the entire undivided world. This does not suggest the cessation of inter-imperialist contradictions. These not merely exist but are bound to intensify in the future given the basic capitalist law of uneven development. This leads to conflicts of interests between capitalist centres given their relative future strengths.
This international finance capital is no longer separate or detached from the world of production. The financial structure is a superstructure of capitalist production, but it is not detached, but it is enmeshed with industrial capital in its pursuit of profit maximisation. The IFC now leads the commonality of purpose to unleash fresh attacks to vastly increase levels of capital accumulation and profit maximisation, further.
It is the new attacks and the reordering of world for profit maximisation, under dictates of IFC, that defines neo-liberalism. It operates, firstly, through policies that remove restrictions on the movement of goods and capital across borders. Trade liberalisation displaces domestic producers engendering domestic deindustrialisation. So also liberalisation of capital flows allows multinational corporations to acquire domestic productive assets vastly enlarging capital accumulation.
The second way of consolidating capital accumulation is through the imposition of deflationary policies, to which we shall return shortly, like restrictions on government expenses in the name of fiscal discipline which leads to the lowering of the level of aggregate demand in the world economy, a shift in terms of trade against the peasantry in the third world and a rolling back of the State sector globally, more pronounced in the third world, which increasingly becomes privatised and the opening up of huge new areas for private accumulation. Thus, the new feature of current imperialism is the prising open of new and hitherto non-existent avenues for profit maximisation.
imposition of such neo-liberal policies by
browbeating the developing countries is achieved by imperialism through
agencies of IMF, World Bank and WTO – globalisation's trimoorti. The structural conditionalities imposed by
the IMF and separately by the World Bank
while disbursing loans to the developing countries ensured compliance
neo-liberal reforms. The WTO similarly,
especially in the current
phase of imperialism turns large
segments of the third world bourgeoisie into collaborators. In several
countries, the struggle for decolonisation had been fought under the
of the domestic bourgeoisie which, after independence, had tried to
path of relatively autonomous capitalist development.
While allying itself with domestic
landlordism, while compromising
with the big capitalist powers, it had nonetheless retained a degree of
autonomy, pursuing non-alignment in
foreign policy which enabled it to use the
All through the history of capitalism, accumulation takes place in two ways: one is through the normal dynamics of capital expansion (appropriation) through the unfolding of its production process and the other is through coercion (expropriation) whose brutality Marx defines as primary accumulation of capital. Historically, these two processes continue to coexist. The process of primary accumulation has taken various forms, including direct colonisation. In the current phase, the hallmark of contemporary imperialism is the intensification of such brutal primary accumulation assaulting a vast majority of the people of the world's population, both in the developed as well and all other countries.
It is the unfolding of such neo-liberal offensive under globalisation that has precipitated the current global economic crisis.
All over the capitalist world, especially in the third world, disinvestment and privatisation of the State sector is nothing else but the private accumulation through the expropriation of State assets. Public utilities like water and energy, public services like education and health have increasingly become domains of private accumulation of capital. Control over mineral resources are increasingly becoming private, agriculture is increasingly being opened up to multinational seed and marketing companies leading to the virtual destruction of traditional agriculture in the third world throwing the peasantry into acute distress. The removal of trade tariffs and Free Trade Agreements is leading to deindustrialisation in many third world countries. Common resources like forests, water etc are increasingly being taken over as private property. This “accumulation through encroachment” (expropriation) as opposed to “accumulation through expansion” (appropriation) is the hallmark of contemporary imperialism.(Based on analysis by Professor Prabhat Patnaik.)
capitalist economy can function without a stable medium of
holding wealth. This role is
performed by money backed by the
State. In the concrete capitalist world,
the money of one particular economy,
typically the most powerful economy of the time, is chosen to
medium. Its de jure stability used to be assured, though not
by linking it to gold which historically
has been the most favoured medium of wealth holding but its de facto
stability is assured by ensuring that commodity prices do not rise
in its terms. This requires, in the
first place, that the working class in this leading economy must not be
enough to precipitate a wage price spiral.
Further, primary commodity prices must be kept in check, so that
inflation can occur on this score. This,
however, requires not merely control over raw material sources in the
world but additional control over world
demand which should not be allowed to
raise to levels that lead to inflation.
This explains the neo-liberal prescription for deflation. In the
of hegemony of international finance capital, the maximisation of
through such deflation encompasses the entire world, except the leading
quite apart from the periodical crisis that will continuously erupt
neo-liberal globalisation, a much graver systemic crisis is impending. The
this is not an inherently stable situation because those
holding the dollar would sooner
than later wish to trade them
for more lucrative
indications of this are already unfolding with the dollar having lost
per cent in recent months. In order to stabilise itself and the global
capitalist economy, USA will now increase the pressures on countries
hold huge amounts of its currency like
China and other Asian economies to
revalue their currencies upwards in order to
cushion its own burgeoning
current account deficits. This, in turn,
if it were to happen, would lead to a slump in the latter economies. Even if the
irrespective of how the current crisis is overcome, a major systemic
world capitalism is in the offing.
Marx had once remarked that the stability of a ruling class is ensured only by the extent to which it presses the best minds of the subordinate and exploited classes in its service. As both Marx and Engels have pointed out, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling classes. The ideological war to establish the intellectual hegemony of imperialism and neo-liberalism has been on the offensive during this period. Aided by this very process of globalisation and the vastly elevated levels of technologies, there is convergence of information, communications and entertainment (ICE) into mega corporations. For instance, the mega publishing corporation Time had earlier merged with the entertainment giant Warner Bros. The information giant American Online Ltd (AOL) has now acquired Time-Warner at a cost of $ 164 billion to become the largest ICE conglomerate in the world. Rupert Murdoch now commands a combined news, entertainment and internet enterprise which is valued at $ 68 billion. Likewise, Walt Disney has now acquired Marvel (of Spiderman fame). The cultural products that are universally created are bombarded across the world garnering phenomenal profits. This monopolisation of the sphere of human intellectual activity and the control over dissemination of information through the corporate media is a salient feature of this period that seeks to continuously mount an ideological offensive against any critique or alternative to capitalism.
Viewed in terms of class hegemony, the culture of globalisation seeks to divorce people from their actual realities of day to day life. Culture here acts not as an appeal to the aesthetic, but as a distraction, diversion from pressing problems of poverty and misery.
Though imperialism has strengthened its hegemony and heightened its multifaceted offensive all across the globe, as we have discussed earlier, it is on the brink of a systemic crisis which could prove far graver and more encompassing than the current global recession.
However, irrespective of the intensity of the crisis, capitalism does not automatically collapse. It needs to be overthrown. An erroneous understanding only blunts the need to constantly sharpen and strengthen the revolutionary ideological struggle of the working class and its decisive intervention under the leadership of a party wedded to Marxism-Leninism -- the subjective factor without which no revolutionary transformation is possible.
This period has also seen the rising resistance to such growing imperialist hegemonic efforts. But it must be noted that much of the struggles launched by the working class and the exploited sections have essentially been defensive in nature, i.e., defending their existing rights from greater encroachment by neo-liberalism. Resistance in the nature of mounting the assault on the rule of capital is yet to take a decisive shape.
It is the strengthening of the parties wedded to Marxism-Leninism along with the sharpening of class struggles through the mobilisation of popular masses under the leadership of the working class that the strength and success of the International Communist movement in the 21st century will be determined.