Kostas Papadakis, member of the CC of the KKE and MEP
Our seminar today aims to shed light on contemporary, complex and serious (for the workers) developments, through the prism of Leninist thought, as this was exemplified 100 years ago in the work "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe". With the utilization of other works that also analyze the constituent elements of imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalism.
Today, we see new inter-state unions next to the old ones, like NATO and the EU. Unions are emerging in Eurasia, Latin America, Asia that supposedly aim to unite the peoples and economic life of entire continents. The problems are serious, because apart from the mutated parties that bear the "communist" title and follow the social-democratic path, there are CPs that are trying, struggling but detach this development from its economic base and salute it, adopting the ideological construct of the so-called "multi-polar world".
At the same time, we can observe processes in the EU, which is an advanced form of reactionary alliance between capitalist states in Europe. It is inside this framework that we must evaluate the developments around the Brexit, where the increasing discontent of the people was trapped in the current of bourgeois euroscepticism. There is an attempt by far-right and fascist forces to utilize this trend, which is developing in many EU countries. And this is happening at a time when the "left" parties and parties that are vehicles for opportunism and are connected to the current of so-called "Eurocommunism» have been addressing vain appeals and struggling for the "democratization" of the EU for decades, the "return to its foundation principles" which it is allegedly not following now, its "humanization", its transformation into a "Europe of the peoples", where "national independence and sovereignty will be respected». Equally dangerous-in our opinion- are views that, using various arguments, retreat from the struggle to overthrow capitalism at a national level, directly rejecting the Leninist view regarding the potential for the revolution to be victorious in one country, something which is also analyzed in this specific work of Lenin.
In our estimation, this occurs because a number of opportunist positions and analyses that in essence understand imperialism chiefly as a foreign policy, as a foreign external invasion and domination of a weaker bourgeois state by a stronger one today continue to have a strong influence in the ranks of the international communist movement. These analyses often highlight existing imperialist military offensives and interventions of the most powerful capitalist states, the penetration of foreign monopolies in order to exploit and control the market of a country or a wider region, but in a way detached from the unequal relations that are an integral feature of the capitalist system and from the socio-economic content of imperialism, as the final highest stage of capitalism.
These views restrict the labour movement to making a superficial condemnation of the imperialist interventions and at the same time they mistakenly promote the possibility of the social alliance of the working class with bourgeois forces, with the aim of overcoming the backwardness of capitalist development in the country and fully acquiring its national independence. In this way, the goal of enhancing the position of a capitalist country inside the imperialist system, a goal that leads to class collaboration, is advanced as being “anti-imperialist” and presented as a radical goal for the struggle against imperialist dependency, even more so as step or stage towards socialism.
For this reason, it is particularly important to project the Leninist position on imperialism, as the reactionary era of capitalism which is decaying and dying, with unified features for all the states of the international imperialist system, whether they are weaker or stronger at any given moment.
These unified features are related to the dominance of the monopolies, of the powerful stock companies and the sharpening of the capitalist competition, the formation of finance capital, the increase of the importance of the export of capital in relation to the export of commodities, the struggle for the redivision of the markets and territories amongst the imperialist states and international monopoly groups.
The dominance of the monopolies, of the powerful stock companies leads to the distancing and separation of capitalist ownership from the management and organization of capitalist production and constitutes the economic basis for the intensification of the parasitic role of the bourgeois class in each capitalist state. Dangerous parasites profit on a daily basis from the buying and selling of the shares of capitalist businesses, without any other relationship with the specific businesses.
Parasitism, the sharpening of the basic contradiction between the social character of production and the capitalist appropriation of its results characterize all the capitalist states, regardless of their position in the international imperialist system.
At the same time, the strengthening of the trend for capital exports accelerates capitalism’s development in countries to which these capital exports are destined. It also contributes, together with the speed of technological developments, to the rapid change of the correlation of forces between states in the international imperialist system, according to the law of uneven development.
Lenin highlighted in his writings at the beginning of the 20th century that a small group of states possessed the leading position in the global market thanks to the trusts, cartel and inter-state relations between creditor states and debtor states. He shed light on the increase of strength achieved by these specific states, which play the role of the creditor, the usurer, the rentier (Rentnerstaat) in relation to the debtor states. He also focused on the group of strong states that possessed colonies in his era. Following the Leninist method, we must examine the contemporary changes in the positions of the states in the international imperialist system. Today about 200 states have acquired their political independence. The unequal relations between capitalist states are inherent in capitalism and the constant changes in the correlation of forces amongst the states are a result of the impact of the law of uneven development. Consequently, the safeguarding of equal relations between bourgeois states, on the terrain of capitalism, even in the framework of an interstate alliance, like the EU or any other capitalist inter-state union, cannot be a goal of struggle for the communists.
A web of unequal relations of interdependence amongst all the capitalist states has been formed in the contemporary imperialist system. Creditor states of the 20th century have today been transformed into debtor states (e.g. the current large state debts of the USA, France and Italy), while China is today a creditor state. The change in the correlation of forces between Britain and India from the 20th to the 21st century is the most characteristic example.
Today the USA remains the strongest power in the imperialist world, as the strength of each bourgeois class is a sum of its military, economic and political power. However, there is a continuation of the trend for changes in the correlation of forces, with the reduction of the share of the USA and Eurozone in the Gross World Product and the increase of the share of China and other countries. This is a development connected to the creation of new inter-state unions of capitalist countries, such as e.g. the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, S. Africa).
It is inside this framework that the communists must examine the development of the imperialist alliances, the unequal inter-state relations, the existing imperialist military, political and economic dependencies, as well as the intensification of imperialist interventions, the expansion of local wars and the danger of a new generalized imperialist war.
Otherwise, any predictions will be unsound, as they will not be based on the relationship between the economy and politics. Otherwise, there is the real danger that the communist movement will in the end serve the interests of one of the competing imperialist centres instead of utilizing the inter-imperialist contradictions for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
It is through this prism that we must examine such major agreements, like the TTIP with EU, which is designed the cover 50% of the current global production and 30% of global trade. The TTIP in essence constitutes the Euro-Atlantic response to the rise of powerful capitalist economies like China and India in Asia, as well as the BRICS countries as a whole. Significant sections of the French and German bourgeois classes are reacting against this development, because they understand that the American proposal is a "Trojan Horse" in order to ensure US economic hegemony in Europe. At the same time, this coexists with ambitions of European monopolies to more decisively penetrate the US market, not to impose "pro-people specifications and health and safety standards that do not exist in the USA” as bourgeois and opportunist forces like the ELP claim but to maximize their profitability. Indicative of this is the recent acquisition of the emblematic US company Monsanto, in the field of genetically modified crops, by the German monopoly Bayer. In this way the economic war is intensifying, not only between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic countries, but also inside the Euro-Atlantic bloc, between the USA and Germany, with the emergence of scandals related to "Siemens", VW, Deutsche Bank, Apple.
In these conditions, the criticism of social-democratic and other opportunist forces regarding such agreements, which will allegedly remove the "reins" from the monopolies, will impede "viable" and "sustainable" development, will infringe the sovereignty of each state, conceals the essence: That the TTIP and every other such capitalist agreement and alliance is not a deviation but a clear confirmation of the exploitative character of the capitalist system. As Lenin wrote in this specific work about those who championed the humanization of the imperialists "To think that it is possible means coming down to the level of some snivelling parson who every Sunday preaches to the rich on the lofty principles of Christianity and advises them to give the poor, well, if not millions, at least several hundred rubles yearly."
Of course, such agreements, as well as the discussion about a "multipolar world", "the reformation of the UN" etc, which, whether consciously or not, foster the illusion amongst the people concerning a new "peaceful" world, where the possibility of a world war has receded, due to the deepening of economic cooperation, major economic agreements, of multi-national monopolies.
For this reason, the Leninist criticism of the theory of “ultra-imperialism” acquires particular significance. A series of contemporary theoretical and political analyses are in essence returning to the core of Kautsky’s opportunist viewpoint (e.g. globalization, empire), invoking certain existent contemporary trends.
They advance the expansion of the strength of companies with a multinational stock composition, the larger growth rate of world trade, the widening of the interdependencies between the capitalist states as contemporary features of a new historical stage of capitalism in relation to imperialism.
In reality, all these phenomena reflect the general trend for the internationalization of production, investments, the movement of capital inside the framework of the global capitalist market. However, this tendency cannot negate the impact of the law of uneven development nor can it reverse the fact that the basic part of the social reproduction of capital is carried on the terrain of the nation-state formation of the capitalist economy. The inter-imperialist contradictions are sharpening in the context of this objective and contradictory movement of the capitalist economy.
The law of uneven developments results in the change of the material conditions on whose basis the alliances between the capitalist states, especially in the era of monopoly capitalism, are formed.
Lenin very aptly highlighted this specific conclusion by examining the economic content of the slogan for the “United States of Europe». He stressed that in the conditions of capitalism the United States of Europe would either be reactionary or unrealizable, as it would amount to a permanent agreement for the division of the colonies and markets amongst the major European bourgeois states. He explained that a temporary agreement between the European states would be possible so that they could suffocate socialism in Europe together and protect the looted colonies and markets that they control against the USA and Japan.
There is now a great deal of evidence that demonstrates the correctness of Lenin's assessments. The imperialist alliances are inter-state alliances that express the common interests of the bourgeois classes of their member-states. The common interests are related to expanding their monopolies, buttressing their competitiveness in the international imperialist system in conditions of sharpening competition, as well as confronting the labour movement and neutralizing the revolutionary communist parties in a unified way.
However, the common aims of the monopolies of the various states of an imperialist alliance cannot negate the unevenness and nation-state organization which are the foundations for capitalist accumulation. They cannot negate the competition and contradictions inside each imperialist alliance and also amongst the various imperialist alliances and axes. The realignments in the international correlation of forces also lead to changes in the composition and structure of the imperialist alliances. Imperialist alliances and the sudden exacerbation of inter-imperialist contradictions, which lead to the breaking of alliances, are two side of the same coin.
A very characteristic example is the EU, which today is an advanced form of alliance between the capitalist states in Europe and has undergone various stages in its development.
In the current difficult and complex conditions, as the inter-imperialist contradictions are sharpening over raw material, energy, the transport routes for commodities and market shares, the danger of a generalized imperialist war is also increasing. The communists must disperse the illusions about an allegedly "peaceful multipolar world" and even more to struggle decisively and methodically so that the working class does not align with the bourgeoisie of its own country, so that it is not trapped into choosing to align with one of the competing imperialist alliances. In our estimation, the constant efforts for the daily political and economic struggles not to be detached from the main revolutionary political task are a prerequisite for the achievement of this aim. The goal of working class power must not be pushed to the margins by another “transitional” political goal on the terrain of capitalism (e.g. the change of the bourgeois government).The revolutionary strategic orientation must remain stable both when the movement is on an upward trend or in retreat, without watering it down in the name of the outbreak of the economic crisis, the rise of the fascist current, the danger of or waging of an imperialist war.
The communists must educate the people and orient the labour movement so that they place no trust in any bourgeois government, bourgeois class or imperialist alliance. Only then can they utilize the inter-imperialist contradictions to the benefit of the historic mission of the working class and respond to the sudden intensification of the class struggle.
To this end, it is important to repeatedly highlight that no imperialist alliances are permanent and stable and that at the same time they are inherently reactionary. In the conditions when the EU and Eurozone were established, for example, their existence as a progressive phenomenon was even adopted by CPs. Even today there exists similar confusion and mistaken positions that do not expose the reactionary character of the EU and the role of uneven development inside it.
It is also particularly important for it to be understood that all the bourgeois classes of every imperialist alliance are jointly responsible for the escalation of the offensive against the working class.
Consequently, the aim of conflict and rupture with the EU and every capitalist inter-state union must be constantly advanced as features of the struggle for the overthrow of the monopolies’ power, which (workers’ power) is a precondition for the disengagement of a country from every imperialist alliance to work in favor of the people.
By following this strategy and over the course of its implementation, the revolutionary labour movement will be able to utilize fissures in the imperialist EU and NATO in order to truly destabilize bourgeois power in each member-state and the cohesion of the reactionary anti-people EU as a whole,.
A key issue is that each CP must form a revolutionary strategy in its own country and fight against opportunism which pushes it into becoming the political “tail” of the bourgeois class, against illusions about the “humanization” of the political line of the imperialist alliances (e.g. those fostered by the Party of the European Left regarding the EU).In this direction, each CP must strengthen its bonds with the working class and the popular strata, with the aim of mobilizing them for their immediate needs and as well to awaken their political class consciousness. In this sense the class struggle, economic-ideological-political, is unified whatever the correlation of forces between the opposing classes, whether it is favourable or unfavourable as is the case today in Greece and at a global level. So, the struggle for exclusively free public modern infrastructure and health services, for the recovery of the losses the people suffered during the deep crisis, for the abolition of the anti-worker laws must be conducted integrated into a line of rupture with the EU, capital and its power, for workers’ power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will lead to a full disengagement from the EU and NATO, will socialize the monopolies and the concentrated means of production in general.
At the same time, it is important to strengthen the coordination of the struggle at a European and international level, based on the contemporary needs and rights of the working class. The interventions of the “Initiative of Communist and Worker’s Parties of Europe” for the condemnation of the imperialist plans at the EU and NATO summits, to denounce the imperialist interventions in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Israel’s attacks against the Palestinian people, to condemn the imperialist plans at the NATO and EU summits as well as the plan to partition Cyprus, pave the way in this direction. It is important to denounce the deepening of the militarization of the EU via the "European Defense Community" and "its global strategy", the creation of the Euro-army; to develop activity to deal with the dangers of a general imperialist war that the sharpening of the inter-imperialist contradictions in many corners of our planet is creating.
A century has passed since Lenin wrote "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe" and "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism», which continue to be powerful resources for the communists in understanding the contemporary world and also for our implacable struggle to overthrow capitalist barbarity and to construct the socialist-communist society.