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Thoughts on a new International

Internationalism in Marxist theory

By Eleni Mpellou

For the KKE it is a matter of principle that the ideological, political and organizational vanguard of the working class is expressed in a distinct and unified manner internationally.

The theoretical basis of this principle, grounded in the works of Marx and Engels, can be found in the international activity and dimension of capital, which we will examine briefly in light of contemporary developments.

In order for capital to reproduce itself as a socio-economic relationship it has already surpassed the “national-state” boundary, which it created as a form of political state-power to establish itself and to overcome feudal relations, to abolish the narrowness of the natural economy and the local market, and craft production.

The phenomenon of international trade and the stock company, which Marx had analyzed, took on new dimensions and characteristics at the end of the 19th century and especially in the 20th century, through the extensive export of capital for direct foreign investments, the creation of stock-markets and other markets for finance capital on an international scale (e.g. the World bank, IMF etc.) and the international nature of the stockholdership of investment companies.

On this basis, after the World War II and despite the continued sharpening of capitalist competition (between companies and between states), stronger centres were formed for the elaboration of a united strategy of the international imperialist system against the working class, its revolutionary organization and its activity as a movement within the capitalist states and even more so against its state-power in the countries which were constructing socialism.

Such centres for the production of a unified strategy and activity of international capital were related to the coordination of decision-making (e.g. the G7 which today has been broadened to the G-20) and in organs of direct economic (IMF, World Bank,WTO etc) and military intervention (NATO, Euro Army etc).

Of course, the unevenness of capitalism and competition, which are inherent in this system, lead to substantial changes in the balance of forces between these centres, while at the same time other regional ones are formed (e.g. EU, ALCA, ALBA, MERCOSUR, ASEAN, Shanghai Cooperation etc). In all these centres, where the unity of the state-power of capital in relation to its opponent the working class is expressed, the continuity of the capitalist state is safeguarded regardless of the ideological-political colouring of any particular government.

A characteristic expression of this reality is the composition of the well-known “Bilderberg Group” where industrialists, ship-owners, bankers, diplomats, military officers, economists, journalists, intellectuals and politicians from all the bourgeois currents from all over the world deliberate “behind closed doors”.

In parallel, the bourgeois political currents and the natural vehicles of capital have been organized in international and regional unions.

Which class does not have an international expression towards the capitalist power which is organized at a nation-state level and internationally? The working class.

Besides the obvious need for this, we must examine the causes of the problems concerning the promotion of the international organization of the ideological and political vanguard of the working class.

In the opinion of the KKE, the problem is not chiefly an organizational one, but ideological-theoretical, which of course reflects the split of the working class at a national level. The ideological unity of the international communist movement has been disturbed and this is what needs to be restored. This is the basic duty for all the CPs -irrespective of their various names- which have the necessary working class composition in their base and in their leading bodies, which ensured the will of the vanguard of the working class to organize the struggle against capitalist exploitation and not to compromise with it.

The deep ideological, political and organizational crisis of the international communist movement, which has been expressed over the last 25 years, has its roots even further back (decades in fact). The KKE is of the opinion that the disruption of this ideological unity came about due to the gradual strengthening and spread of revisionism. Of course what happened at the level of consciousness, in this case revisionism, was a reflection of the socio-economic developments that occured: sections of the working class in advanced capitalist countries experienced higher wages and better living conditions due to the super-profits which capital obtained in their countries, having for example the monopoly in foreign trade (Britain until the end of the 19th century), the ability to exploit raw materials and cheap labour in less developed societies. The offspring of these sections of the working class and of the “labour aristocracy” in the trade union and political movement, absorbed bourgeois propaganda through the education system and they were incorporated into the extended state mechanisms: either into the “services” of the bourgeois state (education, health, welfare) or into purely administrative mechanisms (tax office, local government bodies, maintenance of state property etc) or into state or semi-state industries (banks, public utilities, energy, water, telecommunications-industry, tourism etc).

The buying off of sections of the working class and in dynamic sectors of capitalist industry was carried out in combination with the extensive buying off of scientists, who were of working class background; thus we can see that the widening of the social basis of opportunism and the strengthening of revisionism are interconnected phenomena. The ability of the bourgeois political forces to buy off broad sections of the working class served the political goal of corrupting the labour movement, of diverting it from its strategic aim of socialist revolution in Europe and more generally in the developed capitalist world and indeed in conditions when the international balance of forces had improved for the forces of socialism after the end of the World War II.

Revisionism and opportunism in the CPs in the strong capitalist states exercised pressure on the governing CPs, in extremely complex conditions:

  1. In aninternational historical context (e.g. the development of the atomic bomb by the USA first, the policy of the “cold war” against the USSR immediately after the end of the 2nd World War), when the losses of capitalism were not assessed objectively in combination with its ability to recover its positions.
  2. Weaknesses and shortcomings in the formation of a strategy of the international communist movement against the international imperialist system, since in several instances and extremely important ones at that, the front of struggle against foreign occupation and the Hitler axis was separated from the struggle for working class state-power.
  3. The USSR faced unprecedented theoretical and practical duties (e.g. the containment and the eradication of commodity relations, the contradiction between manual and intellectual labour, the development of the administrative organization of labour in productive sectors of socialist industry, the extensive workers’ participation in the organization and administration of production, services, in workers’ control of management and more general in the organs of state-power). The class struggle for socialist development entered a new phase.

Revisionism and opportunism irreversibly eroded the governing CPs, with the result that they led counterrevolutionary overthrows, violent or controlled capitalist restoration, a process which is still in development.

Another current of revisionism and opportunism known as “Eurocommunism”, eroded the labour movement in the developed capitalist societies and continues to do so, on the one hand maintaining the communist symbols and on the other by creating an opportunist European organization, the European Left Party (ELP). The ELP utilisies and foments existing weaknesses and difficulties in CPs e.g. in Latin America and Asia, weaknesses that spring from the relatively delayed development of capitalism in these countries. The ELP “pushes” into a line of alliance with bourgeois forces of other imperialist centres-so-called allies- (e.g. the EU) against American imperialism regarding them as allegedly allied forces.

In today’s conditions, CPs in countries where bourgeois state-power seeks to upgrade its position at a continental and international level, face the following challenge: to elaborate their strategy realising and overcoming problems in the strategy of the international communist movement with which they had developed as parties.

All the CPs which have declared their dedication to the communist ideology, to Marxism-Leninism, i.e. to the historic role of the working class for social progress and the necessity of socialism, the necessity of political revolution and the revolutionary working class state-power (the dictatorship of the proletariat), have the following immediate duties:

  1. The deep study and propagation of communist ideology, through the publication of the works of its founders in every language, party schools for the organized Marxist education of their cadre, the extension of this to the party members, similar work with the cadre of the Communist Youths.
  2. The formation of a communist intelligentsia, that is to say the scientific cadre of the party with Marxist education and the similar education and training of working class cadre who has the necessary capabilities for intellectual work. Each CP utilizing the communist intelligentsia will study scientifically -not just observe empirically- the socio-economic and political situation in its country, its position in the international imperialist system, its international relations, studies which will be based scientifically on communist ideology, so that their scientific character will not come into conflict with its class character.

In order for the CPs not to become hostages of bourgeois intelligentsia, they must overcome the tendency to underestimate ideological and theoretical work, a tendency towards the fetishization of practical work, the tendency to assign theoretical work outside of the leading bodies. This work needs to be assigned within the CC and the results of this theoretical work must be discussed and adopted by the CC and there should be the tendency for discussion and the undertaking of these duties to be extended to all the party's bodies and base organizations and respectively in the Communist Youth.

The creative assimilation of revolutionary communist theory includes not only the need assimilate it but also to develop it, as both society and the class struggle are constantly developing.

While it is true that the revolutionary theory which was founded by Marx-Engels was very advanced, the theory which Lenin developed especially in relation to the theory on the Party, the revolution, the working-class state, and for that reason it gave momentum to the revolutionary act, it also true that objectively it does not include generalisations for developments and phenomena which did not yet exist or had not been completed a century and a half ago. Nevertheless, such phenomena can today be wrongly interpreted and push a CP into a line of cooperation with sections of the bourgeois class. The duty to develop our revolutionary theory is intertwined with the duty of elaborating a revolutionary strategy.

Today the theoretical basis exists for the strategic positioning of CPs in relation to phenomena like the economic, political and military unions of capitalist states, such as the EU, NATO, the IMF etc, and concerning other phenomena such as the labour aristocracy. Today, there exists a theoretical basis for the rejection of bourgeois theoretical approaches concerning “the end of the working class”, “the end of class struggle”, “ the obsolescence of socialism and capitalism” because allegedly “the new society today is post-industrial” or ideological constructs that claim the economic crisis is caused by “Casino Capitalism” as a deviation from industrial capitalism etc.

However, because this theoretical basis has not been assimilated, old revisionist positions gain ground, appearing as allegedly “contemporary” and as a result ideological confusion and strategic problems manifest themselves in the CPs.

Contemporary opportunism promotes as line of rallying the opposition to “super-profits”, presenting this as a phenomenon which deviates from industrial profits, from “healthy” capitalist development. It is sufficient for us to go back to the writings of Engels on the economic crises in England in the first half of the 19th century, in order discover the long-standing nature of this phenomenon and of the bourgeois positions which are today being promoted as “contemporary left-wing thought which reflects the new social reality”.

On this basis they promote as a so-called “modern strategy”, the view that the “CP as the leading force of the left should rally the left’s scattered forces into a pole demanding a left government”. This problematic strategy has been tested, with negative consequences, throughout all the 20th century as well as recently during the past twenty years. It is rooted in the mistaken understanding concerning alliances, which gives priority to an alliance “from above” with political forces which represent opportunism within the revolutionary labour movement, and therefore has at its strategy the change of the balance of forces in the bourgeois parliament in order to form a government which will not be able or willing to come into conflict with capitalist rule.

The alliance policy of a CP, that is to say of the working class and the oppressed social strata, cannot have as its aim the utopian policy of reforming capitalism from its monopoly stage to its pre-monopoly stage. It can and must be an alliance which pushes the popular intermediate strata into a struggle for a break with monopolies, their imperialist unions. It must be a line for the maturation of the subjective factor for the struggle for socialism, even if it does not demand that the allied social forces fully understand and accept this. Even if the goal of state power, e.g. “People’s Power”, and the related economic relations e.g. the “People’s economy”, are explained in general terms, as is the case in the Anti-monopoly-Anti-imperialist Front of struggle of the KKE, this does not excuse ideological confusion about the possibility of an intermediate form of state-power.

The CPs which operate in capitalist societies - irrespective of their position in the international capitalist system- need to have a common view on this issue. This basic truth was formulated in 1887 by Engels in the prologue of the American edition of “The condition of the Working class “For, as I said before, there cannot be any doubt that the ultimate platform of the American working class must and will be essentially the same as that now adopted by the whole militant working class of Europe, the same as that of the German-American Socialist Labor Party.” 1This position refers to the historic differences in capitalist development in the USA, Germany, Britain and France.

Of course there exist phenomena, the historical investigation of which had not yet led to theoretical generalizations from the viewpoint of the unified revolutionary strategy against the international imperialist system. And from this aspect, the strategic elaboration by the CPs becomes even more difficult. For example: the position of a CP concerning a national movement which has not yet been assimilated by the ruling bourgeois class of a single unified state or reversely the position of a CP concerning an autonomist national movement. Indeed the KKE has been grappling with this kind of issue in relation with the Greek-Cypriot population for many years now, while our sister party (the Turkish CP) which hosts us today has been concerned with the issue of the Kurdish population.

The need for and the promotion of an international revolutionary communist strategy, of the prospect for a new communist international, is served in the opinion of the KKE through these kinds of theoretical and strategic research, which I will mention briefly:

Especially during the 18th and 19th centuries the formation of the capitalist states brought not only the national expression of the natural vehicle of capitalist relations, i.e. the respective bourgeois classes of France, Germany, Greece etc, but also the formation of the respective working classes.

The respective states, depending on their pre-capitalist heritage and the historical specificities in the development of the bourgeois revolutions and the formation of the capitalist states, contributed to the more or less “smooth” merging of nations, to the creation of a more or less coherent national consciousness. In places where the capitalist organization of society and the related formation of a capitalist state were delayed, where empires which united feudal powers survived for a longer period of time, like the Ottoman Empire, the transition to capitalist state formations did not harmonize national differences from the standpoint of the united interests of capital. On this basis, separatist movements developed. Some capitalist states supported these movements while others turned against them according to the contradictions and the alliances that were formed in the framework of the tendency to compete over the distribution of the markets, which is a law of capitalism.

In the reactionary era of imperialism, where the working class has clearly dissociated its strategy from the bourgeoisie, we believe that the communist parties, irrespective the national background, the language and the cultural heritage of the working class, must form their positions according to class criteria, according to the unity of the working class against the bourgeoisie, no matter if the latter appears to be divided at national level.

We are of the opinion that the following position of Engels is both relevant and true:

““The Communists” […] have no interests separate and apart from the interests of the whole working class.

“They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and model the proletarian movement.

“The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries they point out, and bring to the front, the common interests of the whole proletariat, interests independent of all nationality; 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the capitalist class has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of all countries, that section which ever pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have, over the great mass of the proletarians, the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement…

“Thus they fight for the attainment of the immediate ends, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they represent and take care of the future of the movement.”2

According to these criteria forms the KKE its positions on these matters e.g. on the interests of both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot working class dissociating them from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot bourgeoisie. On the same basis, the KKE expresses the solidarity of the Greek working class with the Turkish one (as well as with the Kurdish, the Armenian, etc. irrespective of ethnic origin) despite the differences between the bourgeoisies that might have established their state-power (Greek, Turkish) or not (Kurdish).

Consequently the crucial question is the unity of the various sections of the working class, which are objectively structured within the framework of a specific capitalist state entity, in a strategy for its overthrow and for the abolition of both the ethnically dominant bourgeoisie as well as of the one which faces certain restrictions. Although the formation of the national bourgeois states, approximately till the beginning of the 20th century, represented a progress in the history of human development, the secession of ethnic groups and the formation of new capitalist states today, under the conditions of the dominance of capitalism at a global level, cannot bring anything positive for the labour movement but cause realignments in the correlation of forces within capitalism.

Hence, the position that patriotism and internationalism have a class character, capitalist or labour, which is determined by the main classes of capitalist society, holds true today, more than it did in the era of Lenin in the multinational czarist empire as well as in every bourgeois state irrespective of the degree of its ethnic homogenization. This means that there cannot be any patriotism for the middle strata independent from monopoly cosmopolitanism (internationalism). The middle strata will have to take sides either with the patriotism of capital that includes the contradiction between the defence of its national state structure and cosmopolitanism or with the workers’ patriotism that includes internationalist workers’ solidarity without any contradictions (proletarian internationalism).

The working class realizes its objectively leading role in the struggle for the abolition of capitalist exploitation –hence for the abolition of national differences- to the extent that the revolutionary labour movement –transformed into the communist parties- leads consciously the sectors of the middle strata to a common activity with the working class against capitalist power; to the extent that it ensures the joint action with the working class of the neighbouring states, as well as at a regional and international level.

Thus, each communist party promotes the revolutionary struggle in its country taking initiatives and participating in those of other parties that strengthen ideological political unity. These activities might include several forms of action which have been tested in the past e.g. joint statements-positions on common problems of the international working class, solidarity and support for every working class that faces acute problems in its country, joint activity in order for enlightenment and mobilisation, joint initiatives for the propagation of communist ideology and the development of revolutionary theory through respective party-schools, seminars, publications, etc. Such activities strengthen organizational unity.

The organisational form of an international communist organization cannot be a product of abstract thought in conditions in which the ideological and political unity between communist parties from different countries but also in each country separately, where there may exist more than one CP, has not yet matured. The maturation of this unity requires the unified unwavering stance of the movement against opportunism regarding it as an enemy and not tolerating it as a political force to be cooperated with on the basis of a “minimum program”.

The deeper study of the previous Communist Internationals and especially of the Third Communist International will definitely lead to conclusions that are necessary for the ideological and strategic reconstruction of the international communist movement and its revival.

The new organizational expression of this unity should definitely reflect this maturation. In that sense, it will be different from the organizational expression of the third international which was based on the revolutionary victory of the CPR (B) in Russia and on the influence it exerted on the revolutionary forces of the old parties which have been assimilated by the system of the social democrat parties. These forces did not dissociate themselves from “social democracy” first and foremost in the trade union movement so as to win the most militant sectors of the working class. Nevertheless, these are aspects of historical research that should be discussed in a more specialised discussion.

1. Marx Engels Collected Works, vol. 26, pp. 434-442
2. Marx Engels Collected Works, vol. 26, pp. 434-442.


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