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Table of Contents - Num. 189 October 2017


1)  Berlin in the Historical Collisions of Globalisation

 2)  Liberalism and Protectionism in the Lesson of Two Crises

 3) For Adults Only

European News
4) The German Votes Complicates the Appointment on the Rhine

5) 1917 and Its Consciousness of World Events

1917-2017. One hundred years since the October Revolution
6) The Petrograd Committee

7) Moscow Dreams of a Place in the “Concert of Powers”

8) North Korean “Brinkmanship” and the Balance of Power in Asia

9) Trade Union Card on the NAFTA Table

The Asian Giants
10) A Regulatory Storm over Chinese Restructuring

Workers’ Struggles in the World
11) Strikes and “Disruptions” in the Copper Mines II

13) Publications


1917 and Its Consciousness of World Events

This, then, is the first lesson of 1917, its highly topical and fecund legacy: strategy-party means bringing the consciousness of decisive global facts to our class. This was the case one hundred years ago, in the October assault in Russia. This is the case today, in our battle to entrench a Bolshevik Party in the heart of European imperialism. And it will be the case tomorrow, when the imperialist contention will once again leave no alternatives: war or revolution, socialism or barbarity.

Furthermore, the attempt to entrench an organisation on Bolshevik lines in Italy and Europe has been founded over the decades on this conception of the Party – strategy-party, science-party. To entrench ourselves in a mature metropolis of imperialism required a scientific knowledge of unitary imperialism and of the powers that were contending in it.

The question was deepened by Arrigo Cervetto in an editorial at the end of 1968: a key year in the world contention and a crucial critical juncture for welding a new generation to Leninism in our double political battle of intervention in the crisis in the educational system and in the wage struggles of working-class spontaneity. What Is to Be Done? found «its confirmation and its great topicality», wrote Cervetto; the more imperialist development poses complex, arduous problems for the workers’ struggle, «the more the theoretical and political elaboration of Marxism and Leninism becomes an indispensable tool»:


«What Is to Be Done? is not the conception of the revolutionary party in a situation of capitalist backwardness, but is the scientific anticipation of the role of the Marxist Party in the phase of mature imperialism». Without Leninist leadership, «the workers’ struggle itself is used by the other classes, by the petty bourgeoisie, by capitalism, and by the various imperialist powers.» 

This is why the Leninist Party is not an element extraneous to our class, but the most advanced form of its consciousness, «a collective organ that, in its militancy and historical continuity, has assimilated the instruments for investigating the world situation, the international movements of the struggles of all the classes, the social nature of a series of States, and the trends of the various imperialist groups.»

This analysis has to be brought to the working class from without.

The proletariat is placed in a corporate dimension that its direct experience cannot overcome. The irremediable clash of interests between the proletariat and capitalism undoubtedly arises from the productive process, but «the solvable clash of interests among the various capitalist fractions and the various companies, at both a national and a world level, also arises from the same productive process». The more complex this second kind of clash – the struggle among the groups and fractions of capital that fight one another also by influencing and exploiting the sectors of our class – becomes, the more «the work of diffusion of ‘consciousness’, i.e. of the awareness of the world reality» becomes necessary.

Towards the end of the ‘60s the full imperialist maturation of Italian capitalism was being completed. In order to be competitive on the European and world markets and to extricate itself from the imbalance of an inadequate State, the reformist line of big capital planned to exploit a trade-unionist trade union. In the meantime, the alliances and main directions of Italian imperialism were combining in the parliamentary party system. The Yalta division had shown its cracks in Prague precisely in 1968; the American party and the Russian party, but by then also the European party in its connection with Germany and the EEC, were establishing their lines of influence over the political currents. Only by being aware of this would the proletariat conserve its class autonomy:


«Today the need indicated by Lenin to bring ‘consciousness’ from without has multiplied by ten, by a hundred, by a thousand, because the pressures of the various imperialist interests to succeed in using the workers in their competitive struggles have multiplied. Only when the working class succeeds in achieving the internationalist consciousness of being an international class is it able not to let itself be exploited by the various capitalists and imperialists and their various competing ‘lodestar States’, and to take advantage of the clashes among the predators to overthrow all of them together. ... To apply the Leninist theory of What Is to Be Done? against the reformist strategy of Italian imperialism means, in short, developing the organisation of the revolutionary workers who work actively at promoting the international strategy of the proletariat in Italy.»

This was What Is to Be Done? in the era of imperialism, in the critical junctures of the Italian imbalance crisis. Twenty years later, when the challenge would be to bring another new generation to Leninism, and the Party’s effort would be directed towards the younger generations and the «technician-producers», it was no coincidence that Cervetto returned to the question. Thus, in the March 1987 editorial ‘The Times of Internationalisation’:


«This is the specific nature of the class-party-strategy relationship in the imperialist phase: ‘to bring consciousness from without’ acquires the wider and more complex content of spreading the consciousness of the relations among all the classes as indicated in What Is to Be Done?. It means spreading in the working class the consciousness the struggle among the classes, the clashes between States, and the battles and interdependence among sectors, groups and companies reach international dimensions. It means making visible the network of communicating vessels that joins together, in every latitude, apparently unconnected facts and contradictions.»

Always in those months, at a convention, Cervetto clarified that task towards the new generations; it was a question of presenting itself as the «Party of scientific order»; in the political battle a youth had to find «passion for theory and for struggle» and «enthusiasm in understanding and in fighting». And then:


«This trend is important because it predicts the future when the masses will turn to the Party because it has the science of revolution and of social transformation... when these three factors combine: crisis of the ruling class, movement of the masses who have to find a solution, and presence of the Party.»

This was precisely the October Revolution. And it was precisely the historic lesson of that assault, which had become the lodestar for the political battle on the agenda.

 (from the Preface of the book: “October 1917. 100 Years. 100 Militants of the Revolution”)

Berlin in the Historical Collisions of Globalisation

According to Henry Kissinger, in his “On China”, the real origin of the Korean War in 1950 was to be found in the incipient rivalry between Moscow and Peking. Two months after proclaiming the foundation of the People’s Republic, Mao was in Moscow to negotiate a treaty of alliance; he needed a period of calm in which to develop the economy and give stability to the country. Stalin, however, «had little interest in helping China recover».

The previous year there had been the defection of Tito’s Yugoslavia, the only one in Eastern Europe that had come to power with its own forces and not as a consequence of Russian occupation. Stalin «was determined to avoid a similar outcome in Asia», where the Chinese in their turn «had prevailed in the Chinese civil war against Soviet expectations and by ignoring Soviet advice». Hence the negotiations between the USSR and China became an «intricate minuet», culminating six months later in the Korean War.

Stalin encouraged the ambitions of Kim Il-sung, the North Korean leader who intended to attack the South, but, because he sought «a geopolitical advantage», ascribing the risks to Peking: «Stalin, who had encouraged the outbreak of the Second World War by freeing Hitler’s rear through the Nazi-Soviet pact, applied his practiced skill in hedging his bets. If the United States did intervene, the threat to China would increase as would China’s dependence on the Soviet Union. If China responded to the American challenge, it would require massive Soviet assistance, achieving the same result. If China stayed out, Moscow’s influence in a disillusioned North Korea would grow».

What interests us here is that, for Kissinger, the 1950 war was at the centre of «triangular diplomacy» between the United States, China and the USSR. Japan, we observe, was still in the background; it was precisely from its defeat in the world war that the partition of the Korean peninsula, between the North under Russian control and the South under American influence, had been decided upon in 1945. However, Japan very soon became an explicit factor in the calculations of the regional balance; the outcome of the conflict in Korea also contributed to defining Washington’s «domino theory», the strategic core of which was to prevent Japan’s industrial reconstruction combining with the continental demographic mass of China.

This was the interpretation Arrigo Cervetto gave to the war in Vietnam: Washington intended to pre-empt Tokyo and limit its Asianist connections. Hence the power contention in Asia was a «quadripolar game» between the USA, the USSR, Japan and China; China’s relative economic weakness was compensated for by the «induced weight» the Chinese power came to assume in the regional balance.

This is the point. What the present Korean crisis reveals is the extent to which fault lines in the international contention, active for decades according to their geopolitical and historical regularities, are grasped and transformed by the change in power relations. With respect to the historical data of the Korean fault line, the changes are macroscopic. The economic gap between the North and the South has become almost unbridgeable; South Korea is the world’s sixth-ranking manufacturing producer and is able to act as a middle-sized regional power. Uneven economic and political development has made Japan a world power, despite dragging along the unknowns of its strategic and military autonomy. Moscow has been downsized from its dimensions as the USSR to those of Russia, even if its well-honed diplomatic capacity often allows it to play above its weight.

But above all, China has matured to an imperialist power and is defining itself as a world power. This reconfigures all the relations in Asia and also joins fault lines and points of attrition that were relatively distinct around the lines of Chinese expansion. Perhaps the most important question is that today’s crisis in Korea, together with the border disputes between India and China, has revealed the extent to which New Delhi is becoming an active part in an enlarged regional balance. Here the effect of the lines of Chinese expansion embodied in the «Silk Road» is to strengthen the connection between the power dynamics in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. To all intents and purposes, we can no longer speak about a «quadripolar game» in Asia, as was demonstrated by the Shinzo Abe-Narendra Modi summit in India, attentively followed by Xi Jinping’s diplomacy. The formula of a pentapolar balance would also turn out to be insufficient, since other regional players, beginning with Indonesia because of its demographic weight, seem on the point of being caught up in the accelerated contention.

Triangular diplomacy, quadripolar game, and pentapolar balance: it is not a question, in itself not very important, of finding the lexical formulas that are best suited to describing the new situation. The point is the historical and strategic importance of what is happening: China’s irruption and now India’s, and the emergence of other regional players, are a basic feature of the new strategic phase.

Sixty years have gone by since, in Livorno, with the 1957 “Theses”, Arrigo Cervetto and Lorenzo Parodi engaged in a political battle that would turn out to be a defining moment, around the question of the development of the world market and hence around the «question of times», i.e. the «duration of the counter-revolutionary phase». The prediction of a long cycle of world development had crucial political consequences. They went from the evaluation of the clash level among the imperialist powers – crises and conflicts would have the nature of partial crises and limited wars – to the immediate practical aims of the revolutionary minorities.

One aspect of the ‘Theses’ needs to be grasped attentively, in order to understand the present phase and the political tasks that derive from it. The long development cycle did not regard only the economic dimension of the extension of the world market. It would bring with it the emergence of new powers as the demographic potential of the very vast backward areas, two thirds of the world population, was seized and metabolised into modern capitalist production.

A summary indicator of this process is the rate of the disintegration of the peasantry and the passage of the population from rural to urban; today the course of Chinese development also provides an empirical measurement of that connection between urbanisation, economic strength and the consequent establishment of itself as a political power. In the decades of the accelerated development of its economic miracle, China, very broadly speaking, has had a 10% annual growth rate of its gross product, compared with a population shift of about 1% of the total from the countryside to the towns, always on an annual basis. In these sixty years, the law of capitalist development that has had those two thirds of the human race, at the time still in the depths of peasant paralysis, in its grip, has had as its corollary a law of development of new powers. This is Lenin’s thesis of uneven economic and political development, in its corollary of imperialist development that, because of its intrinsic development, cannot but see the establishment of new states.

Imperialist development was destined to transform and upset the system of states; this reached a threshold point when China inserted itself into global relations and began to act as an imperialist power. The new strategic phase is determined first of all by this role assumed by the Middle Kingdom and its impact on the global system of states, in which the demographic dimensions of Chinese imperialism, almost a billion and a half individuals, have imposed continent-sized dimensions as the new norm of the contention.

If this is the effect of the long cycle of development on the system of states, an equally imposing transformation has regarded inter-class relations. Sixty years of development, combined with demographic trends, have brought the world’s working population to about three billion and its wage earners to two billion. Here, too, the ultimate measurement is the rate of the disintegration of the peasantry; situated differently in time on the basis of the beginning of the economic takeoff and the accelerated phases of development, that annual rate of 1% met with in China also becomes a rough frame of reference for the other areas of the world market, especially in Asia and Africa. Always very broadly speaking, we can estimate as 50 million the population that shifts from the world’s rural areas to the towns every year, a capillary transformation that becomes international migration only for a fraction, and for a part of that fraction becomes migration from the new developing areas to the old powers, in Europe and America.

An empirical measurement, previous to the 2008 crisis that temporarily slowed down the flows, leads us to estimate at less than 10% the share of the global disintegration of the peasantry that floods into the old Western metropolises. In China, its exceptional geographical extension has gathered into a single state body huge population shifts that would have been international migrations elsewhere; we can calculate that no more than 2% of the total flows has emigrated abroad over the decades.

Referring to Marx’s theory, we have defined the impact of these flows on the West’s barren societies as a «historical collision». This is material for electoral manoeuvres of a xenophobic and security-focused kind, even though those arriving in the old metropolises are fewer than one tenth of those shifting in the world, and in spite of the need for almost all the old powers to find in immigration an underprop to demographic rates that have become feeble.

We compare this change to the other great transformation, the one that has made Asia the barycentre of development and is consequently reconfiguring the system of states in the regional and global balance. The crisis in Korea is only one symptom of the shift in forces caused by China’s rise; together with the migration flows, the other crucial fact is Asia’s impact on the tectonic plates of the whole world system of states.

The reader will understand how the two horns of this «historical collision», migratory pressure and erosion or crisis of the world order, are basically objective and unavoidable dynamics. On the one hand, they cause fibrillation in the political cycle of Atlantic decline, in the superficial dynamic of the electoral contention. Berlin has also been hit by this, with the entry into the Bundestag of Alternative für Deutschland, a nationalist, xenophobic and Euro-sceptic force, and with less favourable parliamentary balances for Angela Merkel’s fourth chancellorship. On the other hand, those same world trends are at the heart of the ruling class’s long-term reflection in Europe, and motivate the strategic choices centred on the EU and the euro federation. Where the national powers are no longer on a scale to face global challenges, only European powers can recover capacity for action. The European counteroffensive will meet with more difficulties than expected in Germany, but the horizon of the Franco-German axis still remains. Populism will be a long-term characteristic in the political cycle of the Old Continent... and also of the European strategy of big capital.

Lotta Comunista N° 565, September 2017




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