Lutte Ouvriere on the world economy and threats of crash

Posted: May 3, 2016 by Admin in At the coalface, capitalist crisis, Capitalist ideology, Class Matters, Economics, Limits of capitalism, World economy

The following article was translated from an article appearing in the April 2016 Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle), the political journal of the French revolutionary workers’ organisation Lutte Ouvriére (LO). This was one of the texts adopted by LO at its 45th Congress that took place on March 12 and 13.

images (1)The Threat of a New Financial Crisis

Very few financial crashes will have been as predicted as the one yet to come. Since the first days of January, the press has been filled with catastrophic forebodings. January 5, 2016, the French magazine Les Echos wrote: “the specter of a Chinese market crash has reappeared… The Shanghai stock exchange has dropped by 7% before the suspension of trading. Marketplaces from around the world fell in its wake.”

The January issue of l’Expansion had the following headline: “2016: The Return of the Crisis, Chinese Depression, Return of Financial Bubbles, Geopolitical Risks. Why Is Recovery an Illusion?”

Even the January 6 headline of the popular newspaper, Le Parisien, said, “A Rotten Global Economy, Another Crisis Is Threatening.” And then it added: “The lessons from the subprime crisis have not been learned. Market place turmoil in Asia and announcements about interest rate increases in the United States arouse major anxieties.” The tone remained the same throughout the month of January.

On February 1st, Les Echos published an interview of Patrick Artus, senior economist at Natixis, a major investment bank: “the next crisis will be extraordinarily violent.”

The intellectual elite from the capitalist economy differ about which sector of the financial bubble will blow first: bonds, shares, shale gas, Chinese real estate or U.S. auto loans. Will it be the market of sovereign debts or the currency exchanges? Will the financial crisis start from a breakdown in Brazil or in another big country whose economy has become unstable? Some point to China, others the “folly of central banks,” to use the title of a recent book by Patrick Artus. But many share his prediction expressed in the subtitle of his book:“The next crisis will be worse.”

The fundamental cause of this situation is known and condemned by everyone. After the 2008 banking crisis, the imperialist powers’ central banks, the American Federal Reserve, followed by the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and finally the European Central Bank (ECB) launched vast operations to print money in order to rescue the banks. Central banks used the money that they created to buy bonds, loans and securities from banks and diverse financial institutions. In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, these buy backs were astronomical in size, and included, above all, toxic loans, with no hope of ever being repaid.

In the same operation, the central banks lowered their key rates to nearly zero, that is the interest rates at which the central banks loaned money to private banks. Thus, the banking system had almost unlimited access to fresh money at almost no cost to them.

What they call “quantitative easing,” a term that was recently invented, is nothing but a modern variation of the good old printing of money.

Since 2008, a total of about 6.67 trillion dollars have been injected into the economy, the equivalent of the combined gross domestic products of France and Germany.

The money supply of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, that is the industrialized countries, has tripled in the last seven years, even though the production of goods and services stagnated and the circulation of goods could not absorb this vertiginous increase in the money supply. Money created by the central banks today represents nearly 30% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, compared to 6% at the end of the 1990s. World debt is now higher than in 1946. Current debt levels are comparable only to periods that followed wars. And yet…

Financial groups, big banks, insurance companies, pension funds, speculative funds, hedge funds, which have almost an unlimited supply of money to invest, are constantly seeking out the most profitable sector. But the bigger the money supply, the less they invest in production. Why invest in building new factories, in manufacturing the means of production, if the additional output cannot be sold with a profit? For decades capitalism has been colliding with the fundamental contradiction between its unlimited capacity to increase production and the limits of the market, that is, the limited solvent consumption.

And while the money supply has increased, so has the “nervousness of investors,” as bourgeois economists call it. The phrase is being used in all the articles on the economy. Which “financial asset” – as they call it – will yield the most, even if it is by a tiny percentage, at a particular time? With the slightest alert, the slightest piece of information (true or false), the slightest declaration by a senior official of the central bank, the slightest quivering of the productive economy, with the slightest threat of political or social crisis, billions travel in one direction or the other.

The capitalist economy resembles a train speeding toward a cliff. The driver and the staff on board are aware of the danger but they cannot slow the locomotive down. Travelers are shouting for help. But nobody does anything because this train has no brakes or other means to prevent the catastrophe…

The political leaders have justified this easy money policy by parroting the same answer: it is necessary to stimulate the economy. But since the crisis of 2008, the economy has never really taken off. Or, more precisely, only the financial sector has really taken off. The money flooding into the economy has mainly been absorbed by financial operations. With ups and downs according to the situation in each sector, stock market indexes are generally increasing. But in the meantime, in the euro zone, for example, productive investment has dropped by 15% compared to its 2007 level.

The financial system is being drugged with so much free money provided by the central banks, it may overdose. This money is not going into the productive economy in the form of greater investment. But what is to be done? If the central banks deprive the financial world of this drug by increasing the key interest rate, this would kill it. Not to deprive the financial sector of this drug would also kill it.

Last year the American central bank hesitated between announcing an increase in its key interest rate, only to retreat when the financial markets panicked. Finally the Federal Reserve raised rates slightly for the first time since the 2008 crisis. It was a cautious increase, from 0.25% to 0.5%. In other words, money remains almost free for the financial world.

And the European Central Bank does not hesitate to increase the drug dose! Draghi, its president, announced there was “no limit” to his monetary policy, that is, to the printing of money.

The BRICS in Torment

With one spasm after another, capital is being transferred with increasing violence. Take only one example: the capital that first flooded into the so-called emerging markets, is now being brutally withdrawn. In the years after the 2008 financial crisis, capital was looking for a greater rate of return. So, it rushed into India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and, above all, into China. Le Monde (January 27, 2016) cited China, whose central bank had four trillion dollars in the summer of 2014, compared to only 220 billion dollars in 2002. That means the Chinese central bank’s reserves were 20 times greater than they were 12 years earlier. But things changed in the summer of 2014. Worried by recessions in Brazil and Russia, as well as by the economic slowdown in China, capital began to flee China as suddenly as it had flooded in. The amount of capital flooding out of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is now estimated to be 300 to 400 billion dollars per month! Such amounts are big enough to set off stock market crashes in these countries, or currency crashes. And where these sums are massively invested, they contribute to forming speculative bubbles.

The wave of capital in circulation sank the Brazilian real and shook the Russian ruble. It is threatening the Chinese yuan. The spasms on the currency exchanges have an impact on international trade, with consequences for production. They also create new fields for speculation, such as on the plunge of the currencies of several big countries, so-called “emerging” countries. The Chinese leaders, whose state has more powerful means than others to oppose speculation on its currency, denounced in the Peoples Daily the speculative funds that Georges Soros advises. For the record, in 1992 Soros was able to force the British government to devalue the pound and withdraw it from the European monetary system.

Except for China, the emerging countries’ currencies are said to have lost 30% compared to the dollar since January 2014. For these countries, imported goods are more expensive while the situation on the world market cannot necessarily allow them to export more to compensate. As a result, the working classes of these countries are getting poorer. This crisis in the emerging countries shows that bourgeois intellectuals may play with words and create new expressions, but this does not change reality. Even the biggest of these countries is subjected to the law of big capital of the imperialist countries and that means the multiple consequences of speculation by financial magnates.

The stock markets’ concerns are now particularly focused on China. It seems paradoxical because this country is said to have a 7% growth rate, a rate which the leaders of France, Germany, or the United States would not dare dream of.

Even if the figure is exaggerated, even if the growth rate is only a half or a third as high, China’s economic situation looks enviable to many other countries. On January 27, Les Echos’s headline was: “Oil, Metals, Grain… China Keeps Importing.” And it even noticed an increase of purchases of copper and nickel.

But the problem does not lie there. Nor does it lie – or not yet, anyway – in China’s reduced purchases of raw materials. It is what the owners of big capital think China will do in the future. The problem comes from the scope of the speculative operations which are fastened onto the real exchanges. For years Chinese industrial production was increasing. For years low wages attracted the capital of imperialist countries, such as, Japan, Taiwan, United States, France and Great Britain.

Thanks to this capital and above all thanks to China’s workers, to the exploitation of hundreds of millions of individuals chased out of the countryside and packed into the industrial cities, China has become the workshop of the world.

But even part of the capital that the imperialist countries invested in production was driven by speculative calculations. First, it was speculation on the growth of the Chinese bourgeoisie and its accumulation of wealth, people who would buy big cars, fancy goods, luxury housing and all the fancy toys produced for a newly rich layer. In order to better satisfy this social layer in the process of enriching itself, Western capital had to be in the country. At the same time, China was attracting purely speculative capital. The Shanghai Stock Exchange has become one of the places where global finance has to be present. China itself and the unlimited development of the Chinese market have become an object for speculation.

To a large extent, the economic growth of China was largely based on nothing, even when economists evoked a double digit growth rate. The famous and growing “middle classes,” which were attracting investments from Renault, PSA, Mercedes, Louis Vuitton and major engineering companies specializing in big infrastructure and construction projects, were all getting richer to a large extent thanks to speculative operations, notably in real estate or finance.

Most of the extravagant fortunes that sprang up in China and that now belong to the elite fortunes in the world were made in the real estate sector. When this sector began to struggle or when the decline in the Shanghai stock exchange brought about the bankruptcy of a layer of small and middle bourgeois, a series of chain reactions were set off, ultimately affecting the plans of many financial groups.

The economic press is full of reports about colossal real estate developments, artificial cities which were built during the boom, along with the accumulation of wealth of the new Chinese bourgeoisie. Today, these developments have been transformed into ghost towns where no one has ever lived. On January 27, 2016,Le Figaro described a development built in Dalian (formerly Port Arthur) as a copy of Venice, including with a Grand Canal, where the lots were sold in advance to privileged Chinese. But today “homes which were sold for two million euros are now empty and the new mall is swept by wind.”

The industrial development of China was accompanied by other forms of speculation, notably around raw materials. If China was supposed to be the locomotive for the world economy, it is not only because its industry increased demand for iron, nickel, copper, etc. It also encouraged speculative investments.

The big speculative funds had seized the goose that lays the golden eggs by buying up shares in iron, nickel, copper mines, etc. But last year, these funds sensed the wind beginning to blow the other way, and so they started to divest. The fall in raw material prices, one of the striking aspects of today’s economic situation, is not only caused by a slackening of Chinese demand. It was the withdrawal of speculative placements which, above all, triggered the plunge in raw material prices. This decrease in prices started more than two years ago and it intensified in 2015: down 3% for aluminum, 9% for copper, 15% for nickel, and 28% for iron. Not to mention the price of oil which has also been dropping for geo-strategic reasons.

The consequences of the drop in crude oil and gas prices already amount to a catastrophe for Venezuela, and it is becoming one for Algeria and even for Russia.

The decrease is not limited to industrial raw materials. It also affects the capitalist agricultural production: down 8% for wheat on the Chicago Commodities Exchange, 8% for palm oil, 16% for corn, and 25% for soybeans.

As they did last year, these price decreases led to layoffs, mine closures and the collapse of the economies of numerous countries whose foreign trade is limited to one or two products.

The Financialization of the Economy

The growth and acceleration of the financialization of the world economy did not just begin with the 2008 banking crisis. Even those economists who are lucid about the consequences and threats from accelerating financialization often posit its history as starting in 2008. It’s nothing but a way of hiding the fact that the 2008 banking crisis was the result of an entire evolution.

This way of starting history with the last crisis is a way of blaming it on one or another circumstantial factor. They accuse central banks and their policies after 2008 in order to avoid speaking about the crisis of the whole capitalist economy!

This is the history of the global economy for several decades: almost since the beginning of the 1970s, the capitalist economy has been able to survive only through its addiction to loans (and debts), private and public. It has been shaken by crises, more or less sweeping, more or less general. The cure invented to fight the fever each time ended up aggravating the disease and led to bouts of another fever, worse than before.

The bourgeois press today says that financialization is the biggest threat to the economy. We have been talking about this for years, noting that it has become a major aspect of the economic evolution over the last four decades. We have stated several times, including in some of our congress texts, that it is no longer a matter of periodic crises like those that shook the capitalist economy since its beginnings. It is capitalism’s current mode of operating.

The central banks’ policy of easy money for the financial system is exacerbating and accelerating the financialization of the economy with all its consequences. It is a suicidal policy for the functioning of the economy and yet the central banks are not ready to end it. For this policy corresponds to the interests of big capital itself, a class policy. In drawing a very pessimistic balance sheet of the last period, even an economist as well known as Patrick Artus – after asserting that “quantitative easing increases the price of assets” – notes that “the central banks use these bubbles in asset prices (shares of stock, bonds, etc.), especially in shares of stock and real estate assets, as an instrument of monetary policy in order to create the effect of wealth necessary to stimulate demand by the enrichment of those who own these asset portfolios.” This complicated sentence means that the aim of this policy is to accumulate wealth for the stockholders and the entire hierarchy of big capital, as well as all the junior partners of the bourgeoisie, who live and prosper from the financial sector at the expense of the working class. It is the triumph of the stockholders. They get richer from the general increase of stock prices, despite spectacular variations, and also through dividends and stock buybacks. The overall amount of these stock buybacks by U.S. companies in 2015 is said to have reached one trillion dollars for the first time.

In order to continue the transfer of wealth principally from the working class to stockholders, the central banks have to continue the policy of easy money. The easy money policy only oils the machine, whose sole function is meant to increase the exploitation of the working class, to increase endlessly the surplus value stolen from wage earners, surplus value that is absolute as well as relative. This is what puts pressure everywhere in the capitalist economy to intensify the pace of work and increase working time. This is what produces the race for competitiveness, which the political lackeys of the bourgeoisie present as a means to get out of the crisis.

This is a disgusting lie because whether or not a company or a country improves its competitive position has no influence on the overall economic situation, nor on the crisis itself. It only allows big companies to outdo their competitors by worsening the commercial war.

The race to be more competitive increases exploitation, resulting in an increasing mass of surplus value, which is divided among the capitalists, increasingly for the benefit of financial capital. It favors very big capital and those who own it, that is the very big bourgeoisie, while an increasing part of the working class is pushed into unemployment and poverty.

The outcome of the power struggle between Greece and the official institutions of the big bourgeoisie (the IMF, the European Central Bank, European Commission) is a striking expression of big finance’s global dictatorship. The object for these institutions was to force the Greek government to impose draconian measures on its working classes in the name of the debt accumulated by the Greek state over the years.

We will not go into the fact here that it was the bourgeoisie – and not just the Greek bourgeoisie – which took out and benefitted from this debt, and not the Greek wage earners, civil servants, unemployed or retirees who were made to pay the bill. But while official institutions were focusing on this Greek debt, the central banks were printing money at full speed, false money far exceeding the Greek debt. This illustrated the fact that this entire debt mechanism is only a means to extort money from the popular classes for the profit of finance capital. All the rest – the soothing speeches by politicians, the pseudoscientific explanations by bourgeois economists – is only a smokescreen. Even though Tsipras was presented as far left, the Tsipras government yielded to the huge pressure put on the Greek state, just as did his predecessors. This shows how the states do the dirty work for finance capital and the big bourgeoisie, which monopolizes it. The states themselves or their international institutions assure that the money stolen from the working classes is transferred to the coffers of big capital.

We have also underlined several times that the diversion of a growing part of big capital from productive investment to financial operations not only means that money is taken out of the economy for the benefit of finance. It also modifies even the functioning of the economy as a whole.

In noting the growth of finance in relationship to production, one summarizes the dynamic of big capital in our era. But finance and production are not two distinct sectors of the economy. Even less so are there two distinct parts of the big bourgeoisie that monopolizes big capital. Whether big industrial or financial groups, they act the same way.

Most of the facts and events in the capitalist economy, which seem chaotic and without any relationship to each other, are the direct or indirect expression of financialization.

Since this evolution of capitalism in crisis began, we have had to explicitly or implicitly discuss with all sorts of reformist currents – including Stalinist and antiglobalization – in order to fight the idea that this evolution was due to the policy of the States or of governments. There was a time when these currents put the responsibility for this evolution on Thatcher, Reagan and a few others. But the Thatchers and Reagans have been dead and buried a long time, while the evolution continues and grows bigger.

Financialization does not come out of a political orientation. In this field as in many others, policies are only used to justify the course of big capital, sometimes afterwards, often beforehand. Financialization is the evolution of imperialist capitalism at its very core. The policy of states is only one of the factors in it, decisive at some moments, but still only one among many.

Colonialism, the first form of imperialism, was not the product simply of choices made by a Jules Ferry or by a Gallieni in France. Imperialism itself, according to Lenin’s analysis, was not the result of choices or decisions made by the states of the economically advanced countries at the end of the 19th century. Lenin described the evolution of capitalism itself at a certain stage of its development. The policy of the States was only an expression of this.

This is not a simple theoretical debate. It never was, and certainly it was not during Lenin’s time. It was a fundamental opposition between revolutionary communists and the reformists. The fundamental reasons for World War I came out of this evolution of capitalism. Today, people who only call in question governments and government policies, implicitly hold the idea that another policy is possible within the framework of the capitalist system.

The growing financialization of the economy, with catastrophic consequences for society, is the expression of the growing parasitism of capitalism itself. To pretend to fight financialization on the basis of the market economy and private ownership of the means of production is a fraud.

Capital is not only pouring into the markets for financial products. It never stops pushing to enlarge this market. It passes through the invention of what financiers call “new financial products.” The creation of a multitude of new financial products played the same role in the financial markets as the invention of mobile phones and smartphones in the field of production, even if on a totally different scale.

Today, financial products are countless and out of control. They are bought and sold at speeds allowed by the most modern technologies, using the interconnections of our epoch. Some, like high frequency trading, do not even require human intervention in order to benefit from the slightest difference between the prices of financial products on the world’s stock markets over the four corners of the planet.

Putting Their Hands on the Public Sector

Private capital always pushes to enlarge the financial market. In the first place by taking over the public sector, including and above all so-called public services, transportation, hospitals, social insurance, which represent considerable sums of money.

Private capital has always feasted on the so-called public services. Even the 100% state-owned SNCF [French national railroad] has provided enormous sums to a multitude of providers and contractors. But with financialization, private capital penetrates into the interiors of the state sector, submitting it increasingly to the laws of the market and competition, and therefore to finance.

Public services, which is the term used by reformists of all sorts from the Communist Party to union officials, have never really been at the service of the public. Most were put in place in the aftermath of the Second World War to provide vital services for the functioning of the capitalist economy. But they were not profitable enough to be of interest to private capital. In addition, they resulted from political necessities within a certain economic and social context, requiring governments to defuse the potential threat that World War II could end with revolutionary upheavals, as did World War I.

The fact that health care, social protections, and part of public transportation have escaped the domination of the market economy still represents an advantage for the majority of the population. What favors the majority of the population must be defended, but not public services in general. On the contrary, we must expose the opposition of class interests behind this vague abstraction.

To replace the present system of retirement by individual retirement accounts and the protection of the public health system by private insurance is the expression of the same fundamental evolution that saw SNCF, for example, being cut into two and then three entities, replacing their internal links – that is, planning – by commercial relations and the market. Market ties that result from the dismantling of the SNCF also open the field to the banks, loans and indebtedness.

It is the same for the hospitals. During a long-term evolution, profitability has been introduced into the workings of hospitals. Then, in the name of modernization, they are pushed into debt. As a result: public hospitals remain public in the sense that there are no private investors and no dividends. But they are making higher and higher interest payments to the banks. To free up the money to make those interest payments to the banks, the hospitals are being reorganized on the backs of hospital personnel and patients.

The same evolution can explain the growing difficulties faced by many regional governments. On the one hand, money provided by the state is being cut because of the growing indebtedness of the state itself. On the other hand, the regional governments are also indebted. There too, the banks pushed debts by proposing more or less sophisticated financial products for the construction of a swimming pool or a new stadium. Those expenditures return with a vengeance with the sudden increase in debt (which was behind the failure of the Dexia Bank).

Let us recall that insurance companies, which are often big financial groups, covet Social Security. To demolish Social Security by opening it up to outside competition or to integrate a part of Social Security into the economic market would put huge amounts of money at the disposal of the private sector, money which would in turn enter into the dance of finance and speculation.

Another consequence of financialization is that while this liquidity pouring into the economy benefits big capital, it destroys the ability of cyclical crises to carry out their role as regulator of the capitalist economy. Cyclical crises regulate the anarchic capitalist economy, after the fact adapting production to solvent consumption, through brutal factory closures, skyrocketing unemployment and the collapsing prices. By pruning away the weakest sectors, crises provoke a growing concentration of capital and, once the lowest point is reached, work to restart production.

Within the financialized economy, even this form of regulation – as brutal as it is – is disrupted. The anarchic nature of capitalism takes on a character that is more violent and more disconnected from the productive economy.

To impose rules for operations on the banks in order to slow down a financial collapse, as the leaders of the imperialist powers promised after the panic of 2008, is simply a sham. The circulation of financial assets increasingly relies on financial companies that are not banks: insurance companies, pension funds, investment funds, speculative funds of all kinds. Creating nonbank subsidiaries is even one of the ways that the big banks, which dominate the global economy, circumvent the regulations the states try to impose on them. The “folly,” which Patrick Artus’s book exposes, is not only that of the “central banks” but that of the capitalist system itself. It is a folly that is intensified and aggravated by the financialization.

The crisis and the growing financialization of the economy have affected the working class by worsening unemployment and insecurity, including in the imperialist countries. The international division of labor, which is always bringing about modifications in the economy, has changed the composition of the working class and its geographical distribution. Productive activities have been moving to poor countries where wages are lower. In the imperialist countries, what has developed are all those activities grouped under the very vague and generic label of “services.” Factories and industrial zones, where tens of thousands of workers were concentrated, are being replaced in these countries by banks, insurance companies and big retailers, with their armada of employees, whose wages are often no better than those of industrial workers.

At the same time, the crisis and unemployment have created the conditions which allow the bourgeoisie and its lackeys to encourage the development of what they pompously called “self-employment.” The unemployed worker who delivers pizza in his little truck and the unemployed woman who makes dresses in her home are still members of the proletariat. They have lost the little protection they had, not through the laws, but by belonging to a community. This dislocation of part of the working class into isolated workers is not progress. It is significant that the bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries is rediscovering the charms of what is called the “informal sector” in the poor countries.

The decay of capitalism, which is marked by financialization, has had detrimental effects on the proletariat and its class consciousness. It favors individualism and the false idea that everyone’s fate is in their own hands.

The Future Belongs to the Proletariat

Proletarian class consciousness and its embodiment in the organized workers movement emerged during numerous fights against the exploiters.

The bourgeoisie has always tried to prevent workers from gaining this consciousness. From the beginning, the bourgeoisie encouraged competition between workers, putting workers in competition with each other, pushing the dream that workers can find an individual solution. In the course of time and economic development, the bourgeoisie added new strings to its bow by using institutions that history gave it: in its beginnings, priests and those like them all around the world and then, apparatuses produced by the workers’ own movement, such as unions, reformist parties, etc.

The bourgeoisie has learned how to use the diversification of the working class, which is a product of economic development, to erect new barriers between workers according to their category, origins and position.

Beyond its diversity, the proletariat continues, nonetheless, to reinforce itself numerically on the scale of the world. As varied as living conditions are between countries and within the same country, what all workers have in common is that they cannot live unless they sell their labor power, that is, unless they are exploited. The necessities of capitalist production itself tie together in one chain all those links scattered across the planet: from the children in the Congo, who extract rare metals for making cell phones from the depths of the earth, under inhuman conditions, as well as workers in Amazon’s warehouses, or salespersons at FNAC who work to sell them, or the young girls of 12 or 14 who assemble these wonders of modern technology in Chinese factories. They are the ones who make the global economy function.

The interdependence of workers in different countries who participate in this chain of production is inscribed in the functioning of the capitalist economy, whether it be financialized or not. The capitalist bourgeoisie fights and will inevitably continue to fight all policies aimed at making workers who occupy different positions in this chain of production conscious of their common position. It will try to prevent workers from being in solidarity with each other and from being conscious that their common interest is to engage themselves in the fight to overthrow the dictatorship of the capitalist class over society. The bourgeoisie will sharpen national or cultural differences between different workers, differences in their standards of living, in nationalism and still other factors.

It is necessary to oppose to this attitude of the bourgeoisie a policy which aims at developing the consciousness of class.

The great revolutionary wave in the aftermath of World War I was centered around the big factories with their thousands of workers. This happened in Germany of course but also in Hungary and above all in Russia, despite the backwardness of its economy. A few years later in China, the working class upsurge in Canton as well as the insurrection in Shanghai were both carried out by a proletariat composed of workers from the modern industrial sectors, cotton and textile mills, mines and railways, but even more of workers who were coolies, porters and rickshaw drivers (the self-employed of the time!), to which were joined hundreds of thousands of craftsmen and employees in stores. They all found themselves in the same proletarian insurrection, and even if it was defeated, it marked China’s history.

The real problem for the future of society is that of the rebirth of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, the rebirth of revolutionary communist parties and an international capable of understanding the deleterious effects of capitalist society and of fighting them.

We wrote in the text for our 2014 congress the following:

“Nearly a century ago, when imperialist rivalries plunged the planet into a first world war, Lenin defined imperialism as ‘the senile stage of capitalism.’ Because it was not destroyed by the revolutionary proletariat, senile capitalism continues to survive. The laws of biology do not play out in human society: a form of social organization that has been anachronistic for a long time, even to the point of senility, will disappear only when the privileged class that reaps the benefits of it is overthrown by a social class that brings a new, superior form of social organization. Humanity has paid for the delay in social revolution by the crisis of 1929, by Nazi barbarism, by a second world war and, after three relatively calm decades, by a new economic crisis and the extraordinary growth of the parasitism of finance and all the threats that it entails.

“The problem posed to society goes way beyond the need to defend the conditions of existence of the working class, the main productive class of the economy. The problem is: What will be the future of humanity?

“Society will not develop further on the basis of capitalism. The future of humanity depends on the ability of the working class to pull itself up to the level of the historic task that is incumbent on it, and which cannot be carried out by any other social force: that of overturning the domination of the big bourgeoisie and of replacing the capitalist economy by an economic organization that will allow humanity to move forward.”

We have nothing to add to this affirmation, except the fact that the economic situation was worse in 2015 and that it is looking to be still worse in 2016, with consequences on social relations and life as a whole.

“Socialism or barbarism”: we are living through one of the periods in history when the full meaning of this phrase rings true.

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