January 2014        

An anti-monopoly or anti-imperialist strategy?

At the international meeting of communist and workers’ parties in Lisbon in November a different emphasis emerged among the parties gathered there that could be summed up in the question “Do we describe our struggle at this stage as one against monopoly capitalism or against imperialism?” (bearing in mind that these are different descriptions of the same phenomenon).
      These differences reflect the different historical experiences and the specific nature of the immediate struggles that the parties are involved in. Furthermore, they arise from the different economic and social conditions and the balance of forces in our countries.
      The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) are always worth listening to and their views worth reflecting upon, not only because they are one of the biggest and most influential communist parties in Europe, and because they have spearheaded the workers’ resistance in Greece, organising many successful general strikes (through which the working class throughout Europe benefited), but, most importantly, because they infuse Marxist strategy and theory into all their statements and actions. They think before they act.
      The KKE raise many issues and provoke many questions for communists about the strategy for advancing the cause of socialism in Ireland—as opposed to a reformist programme for managing the affairs of the capitalist class, providing subsidies to private enterprise, managing the trade union movement and workers through minimal legislative protections and picking up the cost when private business discards its workers, along the Danish “flexicurity” model, which is the only thing social democracy can now offer.
      The KKE raise a number of important areas of concern.¹
      1. They are explicitly opposed to communist parties participating in social-democratic governments or “progressive” national governments with bourgeois forces. In the light of Marxist theory but also of the historical experiences of both France and Italy, and arguably now of the ANC in South Africa, communist parties would do well to heed this warning.
      2. They warn against electoral opportunism and alliances with opportunist forces. Again according to historical experiences—and recent experiences here in Ireland—there are clearly forces on the “left” that are far more interested in their own short-term electoral success than in building actual mass, class-conscious, worker-led movements, and these forces do far more harm than good to our class in sowing illusions and creating disillusionment.
      3. The KKE are clear and unambiguous in their opposition to the European Union as an imperialist alliance of capitalist states representing their monopoly interests. Too many on the left, and indeed some important communist parties in Europe, which correctly see their own national states as a class structure, confuse and misunderstand, or opportunistically avoid, the nature of the European Union as a class structure.
      4. Finally, the KKE reject any strategy of alliances with any bourgeois forces. They are clear that the alliances they are building are between workers and small farmers and, as they call them, the rural and urban petit-bourgeoisie; one presumes they mean family-run small businesses and farms and the self-employed. They don’t see any progressive bourgeois forces that could be part of their revolutionary anti-monopoly strategy.
      In regard to the bourgeois ruling class in Ireland, our own party has shown² that the big bourgeoisie are increasingly either leaders in monopoly capitalism, such as CRH, Ryanair, and Smurfit Kappa, or are dependent on monopolies and tied to the system, including (but not solely) a variety of speculative and parasitic finance operations.
      But even the big Irish bourgeoisie account for only 19 of the top 50 companies operating here. It is difficult to see any bourgeoisie of any significance in Ireland not tied to or dependent on monopoly and that might be considered a “national bourgeoisie,” such as existed at the beginning of the last century.
      The KKE appear to call for a single revolutionary strategy for workers’ movements globally when they propose “the necessity of a single revolutionary strategy which will empower the discrete struggle of the communist movement for the interests of the working class, the popular strata, all over the world.”
      This is problematic today in a world marked by such uneven development, uneven power relations between capitalist states within monopoly capitalism, and vastly different levels of communist and workers’ strength.
      The law of combined and uneven development, as it’s known, suggests that once the capitalist market became truly global and under the domination of finance capital the normal road of capitalist development was blocked off to colonies or underdeveloped (from a capitalist production point of view) countries. This theory was more fully developed by Lenin when he identified monopolies and finance capital as the essential feature of capitalism in his day and explained how imperialism was the highest stage of capitalist development.
      The futility of former colonies seeking development through an accommodation with international monopoly capitalism has been shown, in Ireland as elsewhere, as they remain subject to international finance capital.
      Note that Lenin did not say that imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalist development, would not find temporary solutions to crisis. It has done this through war (we now live in a state of permanent war), privatisation, stagnant wages, increased pauperisation and proletarianisation globally, increased indebtedness (of both states and working people), a global shift in production and a race to the bottom to attract foreign direct investment, taxation, subsidies, the destruction of the environment (including increasingly destructive acts, such as fracking), and a massive growth in speculative, non-productive finance capital.
      But this has only served to accentuate contradictions within the system, making uneven development more acute and more defining as a feature of the system.
      If we acknowledge that uneven development exists, and that there is an imperialist centre and periphery within the system (Samir Amin suggests there is a “core imperialist triad” of the United States, the European Union, and Japan), then we have to continue this logic through to the nature and make-up of the ruling class in these countries and what strategy will most effectively weaken imperialism and the state and strengthen the class-conscious movement for socialism.
      In this context it has been a Leninist position to seek to exploit differences between enemy forces, which at particular points in time has correctly called for alliances with bourgeois forces to weaken the imperialist system as a whole, something the KKE are now ruling out of their single revolutionary strategy.
      Imperialism, rather than equalising power relations among states and indeed among capitalist classes at different stages of development, which might warrant the convergence of communist strategies, accentuates and polarises even further the exploitative core and periphery relations within imperialism.
      In a core country, such as the United States, Japan, Britain, or Germany, the local monopoly bourgeoisie are big enough and powerful enough, with a local alliance with the smaller bourgeoisie, not only to dominate and control the state and other classes domestically but also to spread their influence and control overseas and to dominate other states and peoples. The communist movement in a core country’s primary enemy is domestic, is local.
      In a peripheral country, such as Ireland, the monopoly bourgeoisie are not strong enough locally to rule unhindered and so have the options of either a local alliance that would negatively affect their monopoly position or becoming integrated in the monopoly system globally and therefore becoming dependent on imperialism to prop up their position domestically.
      This was obvious when the IMF and ECB directly intervened and took control over the Irish state (though it existed long before this), which it continues now through the EU’s direct and increasing control over policy and the economy, through the continued British occupation in the North, through American direct investment and indirect influence, and through the continuing uneven financial, agricultural and commercial relationship that remains following independence in the South, with Britain and the United States in particular.
      This dependence makes our domestic ruling class too weak to rule on its own. This was typical of colonialism, and subsequently neo-colonialism, which have been correctly identified as weaker links in the chain of imperialism.
      However, it also means that, for a strategy for building socialism to be successful, the struggle must be against all forms of imperialist rule in Ireland, the domestic and foreign, against imperialism itself. To strengthen the struggle for socialism the working class in Ireland must lead the anti-imperialist struggle and place its demands at its core—a crucial part of which is regaining sovereign control over many areas of life.
      Historically, the petit-bourgeois and national bourgeoisie led the national liberation movement but subsequently abandoned progressive and anti-imperialist positions once their own rule and interests were secured.
      The correct class strategy will be different in a core imperialist country from that of a peripheral country, the one distorted and dominated by imperialism and subject to a dependent ruling class, the other influenced and shaped by chauvinist imperialist ideology.
      This will mean different communist strategies in Germany, the United States, Greece, and Ireland. This is not to say that all are now correct: it is merely to suggest that attempting to forge one single revolutionary strategy in vastly different countries at different stages of development is potentially counterproductive, and could damage the much-needed exchange of communist experience and analysis.
      The KKE call for an anti-monopoly strategy with the central demand for the socialisation of monopolies, interestingly a phrase and demand also raised by Samir Amin (and note its vast difference from the Keynesian demand for the socialisation of investment). This is an important demand that very few on the left are considering or discussing.
      However, this demand means something vastly different in, say, Germany than in Ireland. What monopolies will we socialise? Ryanair? Google? Citigroup? CRH? Smurfit Kappa, Intel, Pfizer? And what effect would it have here? If a workers’ movement in a core country socialises monopolies it socialises vast amounts of wealth and productive capacity. If we did this in Ireland what would we actually get? A fleet of dodgy aircraft and some office buildings?
      This is simplistic—yes; but there is no doubt that the socialisation of monopolies in core countries is of significantly more value than in peripheral countries. While imperialism is the highest and final stage of capitalism, does it mean one can jump from combating imperialism to building socialism without a transformative period?
      So is an anti-monopoly strategy, as it’s framed, adequate for a peripheral country dominated by both a local and foreign monopoly class? Are the fronts of struggle the same in a core and a peripheral country in this anti-monopoly strategy? Are the alliances sought the same? Are the points of weakness of the ruling class the same in a core and a peripheral country?
      And, therefore, are the strategic demands to be made by the class-conscious socialist movement the same? Fundamentally, is an anti-monopoly strategy for building socialism the same as an anti-imperialist strategy both for national liberation from imperialism and as a platform for building socialism?
      Certainly the KKE have posed important questions for the international workers’ movement. This issue in particular goes to the heart of the debate and requires deeper clarity and analysis from all concerned if we are to defeat imperialism throughout the world.
[NL]

1. See www.solidnet.org/greece-communist-party-of-greece/cp-of-greece-on-the-15th-international-meeting-of-communist-and-workers-parties-in-lisbon-en-ru-ar.
2. See www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv2012-07/04-times.html.

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