The crisis of capitalism and the future of socialism
Harpal Brar, Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) was invited by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) to a two-day conference in Beijing. Entitled ‘The crisis of capitalism and the future of socialism’, the conference was organised by the World Socialism Center of CASS and the Centre for Contemporary World Studies of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC) and was held on 29-30 November 2012.
In addition to the 19 foreign delegates – from Cuba, the US, Britain, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, Nepal and France, nearly a hundred Chinese Marxist academics and communists participated in the deliberations of this very important conference. To give the reader an idea of the significance attached to this conference by the organisers, we shall name here a few of the highly-placed academics and communists who made presentations to this 3rd World Socialism Forum: Prof Hou Huiqin, former deputy director of the Central Policy research of the CPC; Prof Hu Hao, Deputy Director, the research centre of The Contemporary World International Department, CCCPC; Prof Jian Shunxian, International Department of the CCPC; Li Lian, Secretary-General of the former CPC Advisory, whose presentation went under the title ‘The myth of eternal capitalism’; Prof Song Mengrong, Lioning Provincial School of the CPC; Zhang Quanjing, former minister of Organisation Department of the CCCPC, who presented the paper entitled ‘Essence of imperialism will never change’; Prof Zhao Yao, International Institute for Strategic Studies of the Central Party School CCCPC, whose paper dealt with ‘The Tremendous and Profound Changes in the World Situation after the Financial Crisis’; Zheng Kayang, former minister of Policy Research Ministry of the CCCPC, who dealt with ‘The Changing Current Economic and Political Situation’; Zhao Keming, General, former Political Commissar of the National Defence University, the theme of whose presentation was ‘Adhere to the path of common prosperity’; Prof Cheng Enfu, President of the Academy of Marxism, CASS; Prof Li Shenming, Vice-President of CASS, director of Research Centre of International Socialism, CASS; Zhao Jidong, Chief Editor, Xinhuanet, of the Xinhua News Agency, and Wang Wen, from the editorial board of Global Times. The last two also made presentations at this conference.
Xia Weidong, Wang Liqiang, Wu Enyan and Fan Jianxiu – all from the Research Center of International Socialism of CASS – moderated the first four sessions, while the concluding session was moderated by Prof Hu Hao, deputy director of the Research Center of the Contemporary World of the International Department of CCCPC.
It was an exceptionally informative conference, with contributions by exceptionally erudite and intellectually gifted Chinese communists and academics of the highest calibre. We strongly recommend that those of our readers who are interested in learning about the details of the presentations at this conference visit the CASS website.
Presentation to Conference by Harpal Brar
Harpal Brar submitted a lengthy presentation which will shortly be available in print form, as well as on our website. Meanwhile, we indicate immediately below some of the points he made during his contribution.
The crisis facing the capitalist world is the worst crisis of overproduction ever faced by capitalism. The workers are in want of the means of subsistence because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence. The present crisis, he said, had shaken faith in the market. Jack Welch, former chief executive of General Electric was compelled to denounce the shareholder value movement as the dumbest idea, whereas Lawrence Summers, until recently the head of Obama’s Economic Policy Team, was obliged to observe that the idea of the market being inherently self-stabilising had been dealt a fatal blow. State intervention was back in favour, even if presently this is appearing in the form of socialism for the super-rich through gigantic bail-out funds for the rescue of the pillars of finance capital and giant monopoly corporations.
Although the crisis made its appearance in the financial sphere, at bottom it is a crisis of overproduction. As Marx explained long ago, the fever of speculation is only a measure of the shortage of outlets for productive investment: the depressed state of industry is reflected by an expansion of speculative loans and speculative driving up of share prices.
The latest crisis is only a continuation of the crisis which began in the far east in the middle of 1997 and then spread to Russia by August 1998, with world markets taking a pasting. The march of the crisis was temporarily halted through a co-ordinated orgy of cuts in interest rates by the principal imperialist powers. However, the wheels began to come off with the bursting of the dotcom bubble by the end of 2000.
Then followed 3 years of destruction of the productive forces and products alike, after which the world capitalist economy began its temporary climb out of recession, for the reason that, while business investment collapsed and equities plunged, the robber barons of finance capital shifted to the property sector, thus engineering a housing market bubble. The inevitable crash in the property market, which arrived in the summer of 2007, while burying house owners and other investors in real estate under a mountain of debt, left many a financial institution badly burnt, bringing the imperialist financial edifice to a near-meltdown, accompanied by a decline in world output and trade.
The continuing impoverishment of the masses, notwithstanding the real estate bubble, undermined consumer spending and economic growth, thus bringing to a grinding halt the short-lived recovery and precipitating yet another recession, only one that was far more horrendous, for the “ …last cause of real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as if the absolute power of consumption of the entire society would be their limit” (Karl Marx, Capital Vol III, p.484).
Consequent upon this crisis, misery and unemployment have spread like wildfire. In September 2012, the unemployment in the European Union of 27 countries stood at 10.6% of the workforce (25.7m workers), while in the Eurozone, the unemployed accounted for an even higher 11.6% of the labour force. In Spain and Greece, the unemployed accounted for a horrendous 25% of the workforce, with youth unemployment in these two countries reaching the unprecedented 50% mark. In Britain the unemployed numbered 7.8% of the workforce, while in the US they accounted for 7.9%.
With the financial meltdown, the market capitalisation of the major imperialist banks and other financial institutions suffered catastrophic falls, forcing the imperialist governments to part-nationalise them and inject Gargantuan sums to bail out all but bankrupt institutions. This in turn has resulted in huge budget deficits and increases in national debt. For each year of the first Obama presidency, the US experienced a trillion dollars’ worth of deficits (9.3% of GDP). The EU’s budget deficit is of the order of 6.6%, whereas that of Britain stands at 12.4%. The US national debt amounts to 103.6 per cent of its GDP, that of the EU is 87%, and the UK’s 66.1%, while Japan owes a whopping 200% plus.
The governments of imperialist countries have borrowed large sums of money to bail out financial institutions, and this debt has to be serviced. The heavy burden of debt has, on the one hand, undermined the creditworthiness of some of the governments, forcing the latter to pay unrealistic rates of interest to the very sharks which have just been rescued by them; and, on the other hand, it has forced the governments to impose draconian austerity measures on the working class and the broad masses through a mixture of spending cuts, tax rises, and attacks on social benefits.
The crisis is having devastating effects on the lives of the peoples of eastern Europe and Africa.
As was to be expected, in the midst of the deepest ever economic crisis, imperialism is forever engaged in waging wars – from Yugoslavia to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, with Iran being the target thereafter. At the same time, it is preparing for even bigger wars against Russia and China, especially the latter. With the focus of its military presence shifted to Asia, it is clear even to the blind that US imperialism is getting ready for a predatory, criminal, and risky, war against the People’s Republic of China, for the latter stands in the way of continued US hegemony. No matter how peaceful the intentions of the PRC government and its peoples, imperialism cannot change its nature, nor avoid the general crisis which is the force driving it to war and fascism. Equally, there is no doubt that if US imperialism should embark on such a risky adventure, the peoples of China and the world will hang it by its neck.
Imperialist attacks on the working class at home, its wars on the oppressed peoples abroad, the growth of inter-imperialist contradictions in the furious rivalry and competition between them, whereby each imperialist country attempts to get the better of others, are exacerbating all the major contradictions, arousing mass anger and facing the working class and oppressed peoples with a stark choice: either meekly submit to the diktat of imperialism and eke out a miserable existence, or pick up the banner of Marxism-Leninism, overthrow imperialism, and usher in a period of unending peace, prosperity, progress and fraternal harmony.
Harpal Brar concluded by saying that capitalism at its imperialist – parasitic, decadent and moribund – stage had nothing to offer humanity other than misery, destitution, unemployment, homelessness, squalor, degradation and war. Socialism alone offers humanity a bright future.
In other words, the crises of capitalism can only be got rid of through the proletariat seizing state power, transforming the socialised means of production into public property and organising production “upon a predetermined plan”, for the benefit of society as a whole.
“To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the proletariat”, said Engels, adding: “ To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to import to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish – this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism” (Anti-Dühring, p.395).
Summary speech at close of conference
Harpal Brar was also given the honour of being asked to make the ‘Summary Speech’ at the close of the conference. During this speech, he emphasised the following points:
The collapse of the USSR and the eastern and central European socialist countries had sapped the confidence of the international proletariat in a socialist future for humanity. However, the latest capitalist crisis of overproduction has exploded the myth of the eternity of capitalism. Even the BBC, one of the principal propaganda arms of British imperialism, was forced to screen a programme on Marx and accepting as correct the Marxian analysis that capitalism was an incurably flawed system, which could not be cured but only overthrown by its gravedigger, the proletariat. None of this, however, prevents the bourgeoisie and its ideologues from making daily mindless assertions to the effect that Marxism is dead. On the contrary, Marxism is very much alive, for if it were to be truly dead, as is the assertion of bourgeois hacks, there would be no need for repeated assertions concerning its demise. The truth is that Marxism is the ideology of the modern proletariat; it can no more be annihilated than can the modern proletariat.
It is capitalism that is dying on its feet. Its upholders are trying all manner of panaceas, from Keynesianism to austerity measures, but without any effect. Capitalism is like the man in the Chinese fable dying of thirst, with only a cup full of poison to quench his thirst. Whether he drank it or not, death was the certain outcome.
Contrary to the assertions of its opponents, socialism is not a failed system. The collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries at the end of the 1980s was by no means a collapse of socialism: it was a collapse of Khrushchevite revisionism, which, through its corrosive influence in every field, ranging from political economy to ideology, politics and culture, over a period of more than three decades, brought about the downfall of the great and glorious Soviet Union and other socialist countries. It was market socialism that brought disaster to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in eastern Europe.
Touching upon the topic of the problems of corruption and inequality in China, to which frequent references were made by several Chinese comrades during their presentations at the conference, Harpal Brar said that rising corruption and inequality were merely symptoms of the penetration of the market into the Chinese economy. It is the market which has produced corruption and inequality, not the other way round.
The collapse of the USSR and the other socialist countries was doubtless a great setback for the international working-class movement. But the spectacle of the never-ending capitalist crisis of overproduction, the resultant mass unemployment, misery and endless war, are helping to restore the confidence of the international proletariat in socialism as the only way out for humanity faced with the colossal problems created by monopoly capitalism. Imperialism is not only the enemy of progressive humanity, but also the most powerful recruiting sergeant for the working class and national liberation movements. By sharpening all the contradictions – between labour and capital, between imperialism and the oppressed nations and peoples, and between various imperialist countries, it is bringing the working class to revolution. Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat.
Imperialism seeks domination, not freedom. It has nothing to offer humanity. This outmoded system cannot be cured. It must be overthrown; it will be overthrown. In the words of V I Lenin:
“ Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the deadlock created by imperialism and imperialist wars. No matter what difficulties the revolution may encounter, and in spite of temporary setbacks or waves of counter-revolution, the final victory of the proletariat is inevitable” (‘Materials relating to the revision of the Party programme, April-May 1917).
And: “ Let the ‘socialist’ snivellers croak, let the bourgeoisie rage and fume; only people who shut their eyes so as not to see, and stuff their ears so as not to hear, can fail to notice” that capitalism has no future, that it has nothing to offer other than misery to the vast majority of humanity, that this “ wild beast, capitalism, which has drenched the earth in blood and reduced humanity to starvation and demoralisation”, will be felled, that its end is “near and inevitable, no matter how monstrous and savage its frenzy in the face of death” (‘Prophetic words’).
We shall succeed if we do not lose our faith in a socialist future. “The chief endeavour of the bourgeoisie of all countries and of its hangers-on,” observed Stalin, “ is to kill in the working class faith in its own strength, faith in the possibility and inevitability of its victory and thus to perpetuate capitalist slavery” (‘Report to the Eighteenth Party Congress of the CPSU(B)’, (1939), Problems of Leninism, p.802).
The tasks of the international communist movement:
In the light of the prevailing capitalist crisis and the lessons emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, the parties claiming to represent the interests of the proletariat, if they are to succeed in their noble mission of leading the working class in the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, must endeavour to inculcate in the working-class movement the following basic understanding:
1. that capitalism is a transitional stage in the long march of humanity from primitive communism to the higher stage of socialism – communism;
2. that capitalism long ago became a historically outmoded system, owing to the conflict between the productive forces, which are social, and relations of production (private appropriation); this basic conflict lies at the heart of recurrent crises of overproduction and the resultant misery of the working class;
3. that under the conditions of monopoly capitalism, capitalism has grown into a monstrous system of domination and exploitation by a handful of monopolist concerns within each of the imperialist countries and on a world scale by a tiny group of imperialist countries, which exploit, dominate and oppress the overwhelming majority of humanity inhabiting the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America;
4. that, for reasons of the conditions peculiar to this stage of capitalism, imperialism cannot but result in incessant warfare waged by imperialist countries against the oppressed peoples (for instance, the current predatory war of Anglo-American imperialism against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq) and inter-imperialist wars, which have claimed the lives of 100 million people during the 20th century;
5. that socialism alone offers the way out of the contradictions of capitalism; it alone is able to offer humanity a world without the crises of overproduction, without unemployment, poverty and wars; socialism alone is able to provide the conditions for a limitless increase in production, unending prosperity, fraternal co-operation and peace among peoples and nations;
6. that capitalism itself creates the power, namely, the proletariat, which alone is capable of putting an end to the anarchy of production and all other horrors of the capitalist system of production, for “ of all classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry, the proletariat is its special and essential product ”.
7. that the struggle of the proletariat for the overthrow of capitalism must be led by a vanguard revolutionary party of the proletariat;
8. that the state is nothing but an instrument in the hands of one class for the suppression of another class; that the proletariat too needs a state of its own; that the struggle of the proletariat for socialism must lead to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which lasts for a whole historical period, and is the instrument of the proletariat for suppressing any attempts of the bourgeoisie at the restoration of capitalism, on the one hand, and for creating the material and social conditions for the transition to the next, the higher, stage of communism, in which the state withers away and society is able to move from the formula “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work” to “ From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”;
9. In the words of Lenin, “ If we translate the Latin, scientific historical-philosophical term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ into more simple language, it means the following: only a definite class, namely that of the urban workers and industrial workers in general, is able to lead the whole mass of the toilers and exploited in the struggle for the overthrow, in the struggle to maintain and consolidate the victory, in the work of creating the new socialist system,in the whole struggle for the complete abolition of classes .” (Lenin, ‘A Great Beginning’, June 1919);
10. that commodity production and socialism are incompatible and it is the function of socialism to eliminate commodity production and the market and make way for planned production, which instead of being regulated by profit is guided by the principle of the maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and spiritual needs of the people.
11. that all bourgeois prejudices against the Soviet Union of the period of JV Stalin’s leadership must be dropped. During that the Soviet Union made earthshaking achievements in every field – from socialist construction, through collectivisation, to victory in the anti-fascist war – of which the proletarians and oppressed peoples of the world have every right and duty to be proud. Negating that important period in the history of the international working-class movement has only served to negate the most glorious achievements of the working class to date, to defame the dictatorship of the proletariat and the international communist movement and to sully the banner of Marxism-Leninism. Our movement must understand that anti-Stalinism always was, and is now, a cover for attacking Marxism-Leninism and especially the dictatorship of the proletariat, the purpose being “… to kill in the working class the faith in its own strength, faith in the possibility and inevitability of its victory, and thus to perpetuate capitalist slavery ” (Stalin, Report to the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1938).
12. that the guard and fight against all forms of opportunism – social-democracy, Trotskyism and revisionism – must never lessen, for “…the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism” (Lenin, Imperialism – the Highest Stage of Capitalism).
13. that in its struggle for power, the proletariat in the centres of imperialism must wholeheartedly support the national liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples against imperialism, for the “… revolutionary movement in the advanced countries would actually be a sheer fraud if, in their struggle against capital, the workers of Europe and America were not closely and completely united with hundreds upon hundreds of millions of ‘colonial’ slaves who are oppressed by capital ” (V I Lenin, The Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920).
Meeting with comrades from the International Department of CCPC
During his stay in Beijing, Harpal Brar had the opportunity to have a meeting with two comrades from the International Department of the CCCPC and exchange views on matters of mutual interest. At the end of this meeting, the comrades of the International Department handed Harpal Brar a letter, written on the instructions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and General Secretary Xi Jinping, thanking the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for the latter’s messages of congratulations upon the convening of the 18th National Congress of the CPC and Comrade Xi’s election as General Secretary. The text of the CPC’s letter is reproduced below.
Heartfelt gratitude to the CPC and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
At the end of this report, the CPGB-ML would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to the CPC and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for the invitation to Harpal Brar to participate in the very important conference on ‘The crisis of capitalism and the future of socialism’, as well as for the generous and warm hospitality accorded to Harpal Brar during his stay in Beijing.
May the relations between the CPC and the CPGB-ML continue to strengthen in our common struggle against imperialism and in the fight for a socialist future for humanity.
LETTER FROM CPC TO CPGB-ML
November 27th, 2012, Beijing
Comrade Harpal Brar, Comrade Ella Rule, Comrade Zane Carpenter
Chairman, Vice Chairman, General Secretary
Dear Comrade Brar, Comrade Rule, Comrade Carpenter,
Entrusted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and General Secretary Xi Jinping, the International Department of the CPC Central Committee (IDCPC) would like to thank you for your letters of congratulations upon the convening of the 18th National Congress of the CPC and Comrade Xi’s election.
China attaches great importance to the friendly relations between the CPC and the CPGBML and those between China and Britain. We are ready to work with you to further expand the cooperation in various fronts between our two parties and countries for the benefit of our two peoples.
International Department, Central Committee, Communist Party of China