Communist Party of Britain women's organiser LIZ PAYNE reports on discussion at the international conference in Athens which concluded last week amidst demonstrations and strikes.
When 78 of the world's communist and workers' parties met in Athens last weekend (December 9-11), it was the 13th and largest meeting of its kind. The 140 delegates reached unanimous agreement on three key questions.
Firstly, what Karlis Bilans, deputy chair of the Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania, called the 'post-1991 myth of capitalist paradise' has been exposed as a lie. A new rich class has taken root and grown in that country in the midst of deepening poverty.
Secondly, imperialism’s deep structural crisis arises from monopoly capitalism’s system of private ownership and profit and cannot be managed, mitigated or resolved. As Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga put it: 'The old recipes don’t work any more'.
Thirdly, as representatives from every continent testified, working people’s experience of imperialism’s barbarity and greed was drawing more and more people into struggle, not only in pursuit of immediate demands but for the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. This was an uneven process around the world, economically and politically, but the trend was becoming clearer.
The first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Telman Nurullayev, was one of many speakers to point out that counter-revolution in the former socialist countries has turned peoples who had lived together in peace into enemies. The Caucasus and the Balkans have been transformed into arenas of bloody conflict, inflicting a terrible toll on the people and their environment.
The restoration of capitalism has also reversed the socialist policy of eradicating poverty. Maro Rabarovski described how Georgia had been 'destroyed' by capitalists since 1991. More and more people were becoming destitute in the Czech Republic. In Bulgaria, average income was 40 per cent below the EU average, with 6 per cent of people subsisting on less than 50 euros a week.
In these and other countries, socialism is being blamed for capitalism’s failures and communism is being equated with fascism. Yury Afonin, a Communist Party of the Russian Federation deputy in the Duma, warned that a new generation had grown up with no experience of the past and could easily be deceived. This highlighted the importance of communist education.
In many former socialist countries, communists face harassment and repression. The chair of the Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania had been forbidden by the government from travelling to Athens.
Communist Party of Poland vice-president Beata Karon recounted how electoral law had forced her party to dissolve and then reconstitute itself, while socialist and communist symbols have now been outlawed. Trade unions are now banned by most private sector employers in Poland, including at the privatised Gdansk shipyard, birthplace of the anti-communist Solidarnosc organisation.
South African Communist Party international secretary Chris Matlhako declared that capitalism's deepening crisis since 2007 is producing even more misery, war and impending ecological disaster.
According to Ruhin Hossain of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, his country was in imperialism’s sights because of its oil, gas and coal reserves and its strategic location. Monopoly capitalism’s operations had pauperised 30 million Bangladeshis, while 80 per cent of society's economic output fell prey to corruption.
Algerian Party for Democracy and Socialism representative Ibnou-Zahir Bessa recounted how imperialism was now free to bomb countries, destroy their infrastructure, assassinate leaders, destroy infrastructures, starve populations and terrorise all resistance almost at will.
Layla Issa Naffa of the Jordanian Communist Party outlined US imperialism's strategy to subjugate the entire 'Greater Middle East' region from north Africa to the Asian sub-continent. She told the meeting that the main Western powers are trying to undermine the Arab uprisings with sectarian and ethnic conflicts and the imposition of pro-Western regimes.
Representatives of the People’s Party of Palestine and the Tudeh Party of Iran condemned imperialist intervention in Libya, Syria and Iran. Hanna Amireh and Navid Shomali stressed that this served only to endanger progressive forces in their countries and undermine the struggle for peace, democracy and justice.
European delegates agreed that the European Union was created by monopoly capital for monopoly capital. They described the full impact of the crisis on the working class – massive job losses, pay cuts, attacks on pensions, swingeing cuts to public services and the destruction of manufacturing industry.
In Germany, two thirds of people under the age of 35 are in precarious work or unemployed. In Denmark, unemployment is exploding and a million unemployed workers in Spain receive no state support. In Luxembourg, just 10 per cent of households own 80 per cent of the country’s wealth.
Portugal is now Europe’s most unequal country. One in ten workers are unemployed, almost a third of them under the age of 30. Another one in ten are in precarious employment. The previous weekend, the communist-led CGTP-IN trade union federation had organised a general strike, attended by leaders of the Britain's RMT union.
Vice-chair of the Norwegian Communist Party Anne-Catherine Gonzalves drew attention to the rise of fascism in Europe, including recent atrocities in Germany and Norway, although those countries' intelligence concentrated more attention on communists and progressives.
Yechury Sitaram of the Communist Party India (Marxist) characterised the establishment of the Soviet Union as the first advance in history to a society free from class exploitation. 'This should remain an inspiration to all who struggle for social emancipation', he told the meeting. 'The subsequent victory over fascism, the emergence and achievements of the socialist countries, the triumph of the Chinese revolution, the heroic struggle of the peoples of Korea and Vietnam and the triumph of the Cuban revolution have had an enormous impact on world development', the CPI(M) international secretary insisted.
Oscar Martinez emphasised that Cuba's transformation which began in 1959 has not stopped and never will. This was despite the US blockade – 'a genocidal act of imperialism' – that has cost his economy more than $975 billion.
Almost half of all families in Laos were in poverty in 1978, but today the proportion is less one-fifth, according to Thongsavanh Phomvihane of the People’s Revolutionary Party. The PRP and Laotian government planned to eradicate poverty by 2020. Vietnam has taken great steps forward over the past 20 years, based on a 16-fold increase in economic output.
Numerous speakers declared that with people’s harsh experience of the global capitalist crisis comes the growing realisation that capitalism cannot solve humanity's most important problems. This is laying the basis for an enormous fight-back.
Marie Nassif-Debs, deputy general secretary of Lebanese Communist Party, believed that 'the majority of the peoples of the world have decided that the time to face imperialism has come'. Other delegates described how, in the heartlands of imperialism, people had been protesting in many different ways and that these movements were gaining momentum.
Thodoris Chionis, Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) general secretary, warned that working class young women and men can expect nothing from capitalism. 'Our future is directly connected with their participation in the class struggle, the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a socialist system', he declared.
Delegates adopted a resolution calling upon workers, women, farmers and young people to fight together to put an end to capitalism. They also endorsed statements in solidarity with the Palestinian people, with the Greek working class and people resisting the austerity policies of the bankers and the European Union, and opposing imperialist intervention in Syria, Iran, Cyprus and Venezuela.
The world's communist and workers' parties committed themselves to highlighting the needs of women, migrant and young workers in next year's May Day events, celebrating the victory over fascism in Europe on May 9, 1945, demonstrating against NATO around the time of its Chicago summit on May 20-21, stepping up campaigning for the release of the Miami Five, holding a day of action against EU anti-communism on August 23 and to helping organise events to mark International Working Women's Day (March 8) and the 95th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.