In the world today rapid changes are taking place along the main lines of division and conflict. For communist revolutionaries to take effective action we need to identify the most important conflicts in the world today in order to work out strategies and tactics to act in ways which mobilise the masses against their enemies.
BASIC CONTRADICTION OF CAPITALISM
Capitalism is the predominant type of society in the world today and its basic, underlying contradiction is between the social organisation of product and the private ownership of the means of production. The principal aspect of this contradiction is the social organisation of production. Capitalism is increasingly operating on a transnational scale with the process of globalisation steadly turning the whole world into one interconnected whole. At the same time there are very sharp contradictions within this international nexus. The obsolescence of the private ownership of the means of production is apparent from the growing trends towards monopoly, e.g. the growing dominance of just a few IT firms. This increasing socialisation of the means of production on a world scale is creating the objective material conditions for the establishment of communism which can only be fulfilled with the overthrow of capitalism throughout the world. This can only come about by means of conscious revolutionary mass action to appropriate the capitalist class owners of the means of production and their reorganisation on the basis of serving general human needs rather than making money profits for the small minority of capitalists.
Within the economic core the main contradiction is that between the relations of production and the forces of production. The latter is the principal aspect of this contradiction during the present period. This contradiction is becoming increasingly antagonistic. The rapid development of new technologies such as IT is expelling many workers from the labour process while at the same time reducing the opportunities for profitable investment in manufacturing firms. This produces large surpluses of capital seeking profitable investment opportunities. A very large financial sector has emerged to manage this surplus capital, the process of financialisation, which renders the capitalist economies inherently unstable. The last major financial collapse was in 2008 and there could well be another one before too long. Such crises inflict considerable suffering on the working class but also undermine the ideological hegemony of capitalist rule.
MAIN CONTRADICTIONS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
1. Between the capitalist economic system and the natural environment
2. Between ruling classes and subordinate classes
3. Between imperialism and oppressed nations
4. Between imperialist ruling classes
5. Between revolution and reaction
CAPITALIST ECONOMIC SYSTEM AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
The contradiction between capitalism and our natural environment has become increasingly antagonistic. Capitalism is an economic system which is structurally determined to grow and expand. If it does not do so then it starts to go into decline with falls in outputs of commodities, rising unemployment and the failure of capitalist firms. Capitalism has to run to stand still. It has consumed ever increasing amounts of natural resources and brought about the destruction and pollution of our natural environment. In particular the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide is bringing about planetary warming which makes large areas inhospitable and causes rising sea levels. Within recent decades human economic activity has become the primary determinant of environmental changes. This new historical period is called the anthropocene. In this contradiction capitalism has become the principal aspect and the relationship is increasingly antagonistic.
Climatologists overwhelmingly agree that unless greenhouse gas emissions are greatly curtailed on a world scale within a decade or so then runaway global planetary warming is likely to occur with massive consequences in terms of human suffering and deaths. Far from moving forward towards socialism and communism the humans who survive could be thrown back into earlier types of social organisation such as feudalism. So the principal contradiction in the world at large is now that between capitalism and the natural environment and probably has been for some considerable time. This means that the other major contradictions in the world are conditioned and determined by this one rather than vice versa.
RULING CLASSES AND SUBORDINATE CLASSES
On a world scale the proletariat (working class) have been rapidly growing as a proportion of the world’s population. The proletariat now probably outnumber the peasantry. For example, in India there has been a massive movement of people from the countryside to the towns to work in manufacturing and services employment. Thus the contradiction between the bourgeoisie (capitalist classes) and the proletariat has become more significant. This contradiction is inherently antagonistic because of the exploitative character of the labour-capital relationship. Throughout most of the world at present the bourgeoisie are the principal aspect, particularly in the advanced capitalist countries, because the struggles of the working class against them are not very strong. During the last forty years in Western Europe and North America neo-liberal government offensives have greatly weakened the position of organised labour. An important task of the communists is to struggle to help workers get better organised to defend themselves. At the same time the error of economism must be avoided. If anything, it is in the economically developing countries where workers are showing themselves to be more militant. The trade unions in these countries are less ossified and incorporated into state structures than is the case in the developed countries.
Feudalism is by no means dead. There are still large parts of the world where feudal relations of production persist to a greater or lesser degree. This is particularly the case in parts of the Middle East, Asia and in Latin America. In the contradiction between feudal landlords and the peasantry the landlords are generally dominant and thus the principal aspect of this antagonistic contradiction. Even so there is considerable resistance by peasants to their landlords and indeed to imperialist domination, e.g. Afghanistan. In countries which still have a large peasantry it is essential for revolutionaries to build a strong worker-peasant alliance, e.g. in India.
It is peasants and other people living in pre-capitalist societies who are particularly hit by the environmental changes brought about by planetary warming. This is the case in large parts of Africa bordering the Sahara Desert. People are leaving their homelands because they can no longer produce adequate food supplies in degraded environments. Also this gives rise to regional conflicts over water resources and possession of fertile land. These factors are bringing about a mass movement of people from parts of Africa to Europe. One result is that the European countries are becoming more ethnically diverse. The working class in Europe is becoming truly international in its composition. Many countries in coastal areas are losing land to rising sea levels, e.g. Bangladesh. This generates societal instability, especially among the peasantry, which the communists should strive to channel in a revolutionary direction.
IMPERIALISM AND OPPRESSED NATIONS
Imperialism is still a major force in world affairs. The predominant imperialist country is the USA with vast economic investments around the world. In order to protect and hang on to these assets for the American monopoly capitalist class the US armed forces have a string of military bases scattered across the globe. They do not hesitate to use military force if US dominance in any country seems to be threatened. NATO is the major military alliance whereby US imperialism dominates the lesser Western imperialist countries. But there is some degree of antagonism between the USA and the other European imperialist countries particularly as grouped in the European Union.
The contradiction between Western imperialist countries and the nations they oppress in Latin America, Africa and Asia is inherently antagonistic. The resistance of the oppressed nations is not very strong nor effective. The situation today is very different from the period following World War Two when there was a high level of anti-imperialist struggle, including armed struggles, underway, e.g. in Vietnam. Many of the national liberation movements of that period failed to develop in a revolutionary direction and their leaders have degenerated into comprador bourgeoisies, e.g. in Angola. Thus the principal aspect in this contradiction is the imperialist powers. There are some exceptions to this pattern. Most prominent is the case of Afghanistan where the Islamic Taliban movement have effectively defeated the NATO invasion of their country. Objectively this is in the interests of oppressed people in the world but given their feudal character the Taliban are incapable of establishing a progressive regime which will advance the interests of the peasants and workers of their country.
There is Maoist-led resistance to the imperialists and their local agents at the high level of waging people’s war in the Philippines led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and in India led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). However the overall picture is weak with many national liberation movements degenerating and collapsing. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement has suffered two major setbacks in recent decades; in Peru and in Nepal. In Peru the initially highly successful people’s war against the reactionary Peruvian state, led by the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso), suffered serious reverses in the late nineteen eighties and early nineties and collapsed after the capture of their leader Chairman Gonzalo and his subsequent call for the cessation of the armed struggle. In Nepal there was also a people’s war waged by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) against the feudal monarchy which resulted in the election of a Constituent Assembly in which the Maoists were the predominant party. But instead of pressing forward with the struggle to build a New Democratic regime its leaders, Prachanda and Bhattarai, abandoned the revolutionary struggle and claimed that it was only possible to establish a bourgeois democratic republic in Nepal. This led to the collapse and disintegration of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
These defeats pose a serious problem for the Maoists. There have been two major revolutionary struggles which have failed and in both cases excessive reliance was placed on the individual contributions of particular leaders who were built up into god-like figures. When these gods failed the revolutionary struggles collapsed. The communists need to critically assess these great defeats so as not to repeat the same mistakes in future. One lesson to be learnt is that a more collective style of leadership as exercised by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the correct one to adopt.
Given the set-backs suffered by revolutionary movements in the oppressed nations, it is now no longer the case that the main trend in these countries is revolution. With the intensification of antagonistic economic and political contradictions in the imperialist countries, it is possible that at a certain point they could become the main focus of revolutionary upheavals.
It is the countries under imperialist domination whose natural resources are being plundered and destroyed directly and indirectly by imperialist enterprises. Vast areas of the Amazon rain forest are being cleared for cattle raising and soya bean production. In Africa its mineral resources are rapidly being exhausted by mining operations carried out by transnational corporations. The oil resources of the Middle Eastern countries are fought over by rival imperialists and the burning of the oil greatly contributes to the creation of greenhouse gases. In South East Asia there has been massive deforestation to supply timber to the developed capitalist countries. It is people living in the countries dominated by imperialism who are the main victims of environmental degradation.
BETWEEN THE IMPERIALIST RULING CLASSES
The worldwide hegemony of US imperialism is under threat even though it is still economically and militarily dominant on the international stage. New imperialist powers are on the rise. The most prominent challenge comes from China which has degenerated from a socialist country into a fully capitalist one with considerable imperialist ambitions. Its expansionary policy is officially called the ‘One Belt, One Road Plan’ which is essentially a scheme for the worldwide export of Chinese capital. Chinese imperialism is particularly prominent in mining operations in Africa. China’s economic ambitions are being backed up by the development of advanced weapons systems for its military.
The US Government has become increasingly concerned about the advance of Chinese imperialism including its penetration of the American home market. The Trump Administration has been trying to check China’s international economic advance by imposing tariffs on China’s exports to the USA. It also fears China’s growing capacity in IT. The contradiction between US and Chinese imperialism is inevitably antagonistic and is intensifying. As the rising, ambitious power in this contradiction China is clearly the principal aspect.
Another rising imperialist power is Russia. Capitalism of a state kind was being restored in the Soviet Union from the mid-nineteen fifties onwards. But following the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union capitalism has been fully restored in Russia and inevitably is becoming imperialist. Compared with the USA and the European Union Russia is relatively weak economically but this is an important reason as to why it must become imperialist. It too is on the advance in Africa both in economic and military terms. This brings Russia into increasing antagonism with the Western imperialists as it intrudes upon their spheres of influence. Also the advance of the latter into the Eastern European countries, especially in the form of NATO, provokes the Putin regime to take up a more aggressive stance and modernise its military capacity. In the Middle East the Russian state has decisively out manoeuvered US imperialism and its allies in Syria. The Assad regime was a client state of Russia but now the intervention of Russian forces in the Syrian civil war has turned Syria into a neo-colony of Russia.
One divides into two and so it is with imperialism. Some of the more developed countries dominated by imperialism are themselves engaging in imperialist exploitation in other countries. In particular Brazilian, Indian and South African companies have considerable investments in less developed countries. A country’s workers can be subject to predatory exploitation by firms from other countries while members of its own capitalist class are engaged in similar activities abroad, e.g. the India company Tatra.
The rivalry among different imperialisms, be they rising or falling, is anatgonistic. The struggle between them for markets and natural resources inevitably brings them into hostile collision as was pointed out by Lenin over a century ago. The same forces are at work today bringing about military confrontations, wars. At present these interimperialist wars are waged at arm’s length through proxy partners, as in the case of Syria, although sooner or later major, direct open warfare between rival imperialisms are likely. Given the enormous destructive power of modern weapons, this poses a very serious threat to the people of the world.
Most of the governments of imperialist countries, except for that of the USA, now recognise the environmentally devastating effects of capitalism’s inherent need to expand and consume ever more natural resources. There have been a number of international agreements, e.g. the Tokyo Accords, to try to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. But these are not adhered to because to do so would inhibit the need of capitalist imperialisms to continually expand in their struggle with each other for survival. Things have now reached the point whereby unless there is a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade or so then planetary warming will accelerate with devastating consequences for humanity. This is the major issue facing the people of the world and the widespread abolition of capitalism is necessary to avoid such a catastrophe.
BETWEEN REVOLUTION AND REACTION
Half a century ago the Chinese communists were proclaiming that “revolution is the main trend in the world today”. At that time national liberation movements were dealing heavy blows at imperialist domination and Marxist-inspired political movements were waging revolutionary struggles, including armed struggles, against local feudal and comprador bourgeois regimes, especially in Latin America. Perhaps the culmination of this upsurge of popular revolutionary struggles was the unseemly flight of the American imperialists from Vietnam in 1975. Bliss it was to be alive that dawn!
In the imperialist countries the working class had experienced considerable improvements in their general standards of living. This was partly because of the thirty year long economic boom following World War Two, stimulated by the need to repair and replace the massive destruction brought about by the War. But also the Western ruling capitalist classes were willing to concede many of the reformist demands of social democratic parties because they were fearful of the Soviet Union and the appeal its socialism had for many workers. This process had begun back in the nineteen twenties and thirties but accelerated after World War Two. Comprehensive health services, public housing, better schooling, acceptance of the legitimacy of trade unions were among the benefits the working class received as a result of not too resistant ruling classes to demands from below.
The situation started to radically change in the mid-nineteen seventies with the petering out of the post-war boom and growing problems of profitability for capitalist firms. The bourgeoisie started to dig in its heels and hit back against the working class both on the trade union front and in terms of cutting back on state-funded benefits. Also the Soviet Union seemed less of a threat than it had in the past. It was struggling to keep up with the Western imperialists in the arms race and in a system where capitalism was being rapidly restored it was failing to enhance the living standards of its people. In China as the strngth of the capitalist roaders increased from around 1970 onwards support for revolutionary movements abroad waned.
The Western capitalist classes abandoned the liberal Keynesian policies they had been persuing since World War Two and started to reassert themselves against the working class by means of applying neo-liberal economic and social policies. The social democratic and revisionist communist parties proved to be ineffective at resisting this offensive against the working class. From the nineteen eighties onwards the capitalist classes succeeded in bringing about a massive redistribution of national incomes in their favour. In the imperialist countries reaction has been the principal aspect in its contradiction with revolution.
In most of the imperialistically dominated parts of the world national liberation movements had emerged after World War Two. Many of these were led by communists or had a strong communist elements in their leaderships, e.g. in Iraq. However with the rise of revisionism to predominance in the Soviet Union during the nineteen fifties the communists in these countries were instructed by Nikita Khrushchev to take a back seat with respect to the nationalists. This resulted in leadership of the national liberation movements falling into the hands of petit bourgeois and military elements who often professed some kind of “Marxism” but in reality aimed to become new ruling classes in place of the colonial rulers e.g. in Zimbabwe. Given this political leadership these countries have remained under imperialist domination and the lives of the masses have undergone little improvement while their new rulers have become massively wealthy.
Wherever there is oppression there is resistance. Communists must face up to the fact that Marxism as we have applied it, including Maoism, has not shown itself capable of leading the masses to liberation in the oppressed nations. The resulting ideological vacuum has been filled by reactionary ideologies of religious and nationalist kinds. Once there were strong communist movements in some of the countries of the Middle East but they have been supplanted by various types of Islamic fundamentalism. Such movements have not liberated the people but oppressed them and neither have they defeated the imperialists.
In the imperialist countries, which have been in economic difficulties ever since the financial crisis of 2008, the failure of social democrats and communists to provide effective leadership for the working class has provided openings for nationalists, racists and fascists. In some of the European countries, e.g. France, extreme right-wing parties have built up a strong presence in their national parliaments. The independence movements in regions such as Scotland and Catalonia have a petit bourgeois class character and are not objectively progressive. In the USA the Trump presidency is extremely reactionary but is not a form of full blown fascism.
Communists must understand that in the contradiction between revolution and reaction it is the latter which is predominant in the world today. It is nothing but self-deception to claim otherwise. The reversal of this situation is a formidable, urgent task but not an impossible one. Dare to struggle, dare to win!
TASKS FOR COMMUNISTS
1. The Maoist parties and organisations need to become consolidated and grow in influence. To do so they must put into practice a mass line. There should be a unity of theory and practice in the conduct of the class struggle. But it is practice, reaching out to the masses and taking up their struggles, which should normally be primary.
2. The class struggle is international and thus the communists must be organised on a co-ordinated international basis. In order to move in this direction an international conference of the Maoist parties and organisations should be held. For this to produce forward movement careful preparatory work should be carried out in advance of convening the conference.
3. The Maoists must clearly recognise that the overthrow of capitalist classes unavoidably involved the use of forcible means. Preparation for the application of such tactics must be continuous.
4. Given that the contradiction between capitalism and the environment is the principal one in the world today, particular attention should be paid to struggling to push the environmental movement in a revolutionary direction.
5. The working class has suffered many defeats on the economic front. Without slipping into the error of economism, the Maoist communists should help workers fight back against their capitalist oppressors. A defeated and demoralised working class is not going to make revolution.
6. Population movements between countries are greater than ever before. The capitalists and their various agents, particularly in the media, seek to drive a wedge between newcomers to a country and the more established population. The communists should stand firmly at the side of and in defence of migrant workers and combat negative sentiments against them.
7. In order to maintain their unstable position in society the capitalist classes have been using the reactionary ideologies of populism, nationalism and fascism to mislead the working class and render them impotent. The communists must vigorously propagate knowledge of socialism and communism so as to combat and weaken the grip of reactionary ideologies.
8. As rival imperialists come into hostile collision and as they strive to keep down the people of the oppressed nations they are increasingly resorting to waging wars. The Maoists must take the lead in opposing imperialist war mongering.
WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!