Athens Declaration, 8th March 1999



Between the 6th and 9th of March an International Conference of the Workers and the Class Struggle Left took place in Athens (Greece) which had been previously agreed at the international meeting of May of 1998 in Buenos Aires. Its objective was to advance in a united way to the refoundation of the Fourth International. Besides the host party, the Workers Revolutionary Party of  Greece, delegations participated from Partido Obrero (Argentina), Causa Operaria (Brazil), the Trotskyist Opposition (Bolivia), the Trostkyist League (United States),  the Revolutionary Marxist Association/Proposta (Italy), the Colectivo En Defensa del Marxismo (Spain),  the sections of the International Trotskyist Opposition in Great Britain and India and the Marxist Workers League (Turkey). Observing were delegates from Voix de Travailleurs (Workers Voice, France), the Greek Section of the CWI (Committee for an Worker International), Valter Pomar (Vice-President of the PT from Brazil) and organizations of the Greek left such as NAR, a split from the Greek CP. Greetings were sent from the Partido de los Trabajadores (Uruguay) and the Comité Constructor de un Partido Obrero (Chile).


            The events of the last year have confirmed, beyond any doubt, the historical character, that is to say, neither conjunctural nor cyclical, of the current world capitalist crisis. Overcoming all the geographical barriers--from south east Asia to Japan, from Russia to Brazil and the whole Latin American southern cone--the reality of the crisis is imposed as an immediate fact on all countries and all social classes, which allows us to characterize it as the most profound, extensive and durable that capitalism has known in all its history. All the theories about the "local" character of the diverse crises have been swept away by events. But there have also been those who see the crisis as a product of the errors of the wizards of political economy, and not as a manifestation of the whole of the contradictions of capital and of its historical tendency towards self-destruction.

            That there is a crisis of overproduction and of overinvestment, when the levels of misery and of pauperisation, prior to the crisis, have been extended to the world, demonstrates that we are faced with a great crisis of society, that is to say, a universal one. In a historical period in which  social needs increase,  world capital enters into a phase of sharp bankruptcy. While the masses of the world live in drought, world capital lives in flood. This irrationality of the system as a whole is naturally perceived by the different social classes.


Confirmation of a Perspective


            Gathered together nine months ago in Buenos Aires, the organizations and parties convoked by this conference, already warned: what are termed "Asian peculiarities"--the extreme fusion between bank and industrial capital; the deep interpenetration between private capital and the state--is the most general tendency that world capitalism is undergoing through coalitions, acquisitions and restructurings. In fact for this reason, the Asian crisis could only be characterized as a concentrated expression of the crisis of the world capitalist system.

             "The contradiction between the international development which the productive forces have reached and and the national character of capitals, currencies and states is at the root of the current crisis, which thus reveals its world character, not from "models or "politics", but from the capitalist social regime."


Failure of Capitalist 'Globalisation'


            The so-called "globalisation" that aspired, through the complete liberation of movements of capital, to nothing less than the world harmonisation of the conditions of capitalist exploitation, ended up by generating monstrous economic disequilibria and an unprecedented economic fragility, to the point that its own beneficiaries (Soros!) now call for regulation and for politics of  the Keynesian type, at a moment in which the same crisis has undermined the basis for this type of outcome. Globalisation sought to overcome a regime that was characterized by the subordination of all the national currencies to the dollar on a scale never seen before, that is to say, by the subjection of the monetary regimes of each country to the politics of the Federal Reserve of United States. This regime fomented the great period of international speculation, permitting, from the point of view of monetary politics, the ascents of the stock exchanges, the foreign debts, the gigantic wave of investments financed with credits. The subordination to the dollar gave a relative international guarantee to speculation in the various national currencies. But so that this works appropriately, this currency that functions as a guarantee of value of international circulation has to be a really international currency. But the dollar is, above all, the currency of the United States of North America; it is a weapon of the North American bourgeoisie in the struggle and the concurrences with the capitals of the other countries. It is not a universal currency.

            This contradiction broke the Asian process because the currencies of these countries were tied financially to the dollar, but their trade is tied up with Japan. The Asian devaluations were the first manifestation of an international rupture of the national currencies with the dollar, of a threat to the decline of the dollar as a currency that acts as the face of international fianancing, through the competetion of the countries which devalue their currencies. The speculation, instead of valorising capitals, demolishes the stock exchanges, demolishes capitals, produces a withdrawal of speculative capital, a withdrawal of  money from world circulation and, as a consequence of this, develops a world crisis.

            Capitalism could not give itself that universality to which it fictitiously pretends.Capital continues being a form of appropriation of private and national wealth. It is neither collective nor international.

            The most serious consequences of this phenomenon are going to manifest themselves in the USA, which has made use of the fact that the dollar is an international currency in order to subsidize all its industries and pay the deficit of the current account with the issue of money and the creation of a gigantic international debt in dollars. We witness a crisis of international consequences because it has not been manufactured in Asia, but rather is the consequence of a long development that dates from the Second World War.


The Myth of the "End of Socialism"


            This failure includes the attempt to exit from the crisis through the imperialist recolonisation of the old bureaucratized workers' states. In 1990, as a consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western Germany absorbed Eastern Germany and world capitalism solved the most important political crisis of the post war period to the benefit of itself. Because this was so, this solution was the economic basis of the speculative expansion of the last decade.

            The colonization of Russia, of China and of Eastern Europe, countries that had escaped the control of the world capitalist economy as a consequence of the revolutionary processes was presented to capitalism. The Russian market, in principle, should solve the capitalist crisis of overinvestment. In the face of  the dimensions of the market to be supplied, this could give a new lease of life to capitalism and the same could be said, on a much greater scale, of the Chinese market.

            The so-called "globalisation" was in fact a lengthy attempt to counteract the tendency of the devaluation of capitals, for which an intense campaign of opening up of  markets by means of the privatizations was launched and the demolition of the protectionism of the "emerging countries". But the central piece of this politics was the penetration on a grand scale in China and the former-USSR. The perspective of reaching these objectives fed the stock market valorisation of  capitals, especially in New York. For  those who maintain that capitalism has a means of exit, it is necessary to remind them that "globalisation" has in fact been an attempt to exit; this means of "exit", the world crisis, has not been progressing in a linear form, but in leaps, that is to say, [giving way to? doblegando] the different attempts of capitalism to overcome them and open a period of sustained expansion of capital. The Russian debacle and the widespread crisis that begins to take place in China has made this perspective a failure.

            Like a boomerang, in terms of being a way out for capitalism, Russia and China have become a supplementary and decisive factor of its crisis. This is because their reincorporation into the world market and the full reintroduction of mercantile relationships could only be carried out with capitalist methods that imply the destruction of productive forces, mass pauperisation and the reproduction on an enlarged scale of all their contradictions. This theoretical analysis was confirmed with the Russian crisis of August, which unleashed a period of recession in numerous countries that had been less affected by the Asian crisis, especially in Eastern Europe and in South America.

            The prices of the primary products are collapsing, which contributed, for the first time in the post war pereiod, to the fact that world trade declined by 2% in terms of value in 1998. More than half of the nations are in recession. First in August, as a consequence of the Russian crisis; then in October soon after the crash of the LTCM; later in December and finally in January, the world crisis has begun to show itself fully in Brazil, on whose market large North American capitals depend. The devaluation of the Real took place in spite of a "preventative" package of the IMF, of 41,000 million dollars. While the Russian crisis put at risk of devaluation and bankruptcy borrowed capitals and securities (insurance? seguros) or derivative contracts of the order of the 300,000 million dollars, the Brazilian crisis threatens values of about a trillion and half dollars if only the Mercosur bloc is considered.

            Connected with this, the perspective of the collapse of China is posed in the short term and the accentuation of the crisis in Japan, which is going through a more important economic depression, in terms of duration, than that of the 1930s. The former Soviet nations and China, instead of operating to attenuate the capitalist crisis, by means of the absorption of merchandises and capitals, as occurred after the fall of the stock exchanges in October of 1987, is driving it forward.


Financial Crisis and Capitalist crisis


            In order to counteract the crisis, the armed economic blocs of capitalism do not resist this   same development. The 'brasileña' crisis caused the spectacular devaluation of the Real, faced by a capital flight of more than 60,000 million dollars and, simultaneously, the complete "dollarisation" of the Argentinean economy, exploding Mercosur and its perspective of a "single South American currency", in the image of the celebrated euro. All the capitalist plans did not resist the impetuous development of their parasitic and contradictory tendencies.

            The development of the so-called financial sector obeys the necessity of capitalism of overcoming its basic contradiction which reproduces itself unceasingly. It is against productive capital like a Siamese brother to another... The development of the system of credit and banks, the societies for actions and the markets of values, the splitting of capital into productive and financial, the centralization of capitals and the system of public debt, the appearance of  fictitious capital, all this obeys the necessity of capital in its totality overcoming the limits that are against its indefinite reproduction. Those limits are, on the one hand, the relatively limited personal consumption of the masses in the face of a growing productive capacity; on the other hand, the restriction that represents production for private profit in the face of the constant revolution in technique and the procedures of production (the tendency of the decline of the rate of profit and the extinction of the law of  value). In sum, "the limit of the capital is the same capital."

            The financial development facilitates the passage of the capital of a branch of overextended or non-profitable production to another in development that offers greater benefits; it mobilizes those capitals with greater speed, it helps within its own limits to overcome the contradiction between the creation and the destruction of capitals (absorptions); it extends the limits of consumption beyond the wages that it pays to the working population; it unfolds an accumulation of the same (fictitious)  capital that acts as much as a credit of a special kind for production as for consumption. This development (parasitic, because it does not create value) acts as a counterveiling factor to the capitalist crisis until it becomes the main factor of its explosion. This happens when the overaccumulation of capital, which does not assume a directly productive form, and which has been overaccumulated in order to counteract the limits imposed by the overaccumulation of productive capital, reaches proportions incompatible with the total (gross?) value added such that this last could uproot the workforce.

            The crisis is developed in a combined and unequal manner. It is more intense in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America than in the imperialist countries, in which it has a variable intensity. This leads some to see the crisis as local and others to think that it is neutralisable. In fact, this unequal development of the crisis deepens it. The imperialist attempt to get rid of the crisis aggravates the conditions in the semi-colonies, in the workers' states and in the former workers' states and intensifies interimperialist competition: the crisis that they push away from themselves returns to them.

            The combined character of the crisis expresses itself also in the economic fall of Japan and in the beginning of a fall in Western Europe . This character will also be expressed shortly in a fall in the United States. The center of the imperialist system is also the center of the crisis. For the time being, the United States manifests an apparent immunity in the face of the crisis. But as the storm intensifies, partly as a result of the attempt to avoid it also includes the US. At the moment, the crisis is mainly economic and social, but the revolutionary risings in Albania and Indonesia show, in a limited way, its positive potential for the future, as well as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo shows its negative potential.


The Character of the Crisis


            Overinvestment is an economic tendency of capital, not a countable measure of  national accounts. It could be financed from the exterior and create a foreign debt or it could be financed internally and create an internal debt. The financial economy has had an enormous expansion, as demonstrated by  the stratespheric rates that the main stock exchanges have reached, the colossal increases in the public debt, the rise of the investment funds, especially those of pensions; the derivative credits market, whose contracts are considered globally to be more than 40 billions of dollars.

            The growing development of the contradiction between the rapid accumulation of financial capital in respect to productive; between this and the lesser rate of average production; between this and the lesser consumption of the masses; between the geometric progression of  financial rent and the retarded productive profit; between all this and capitalist profitability as a whole (not only the average profitability but also that of the monopolies); the more and more intense aggravation of these contradictions as a whole, all this characterises the current crisis and the historical stage of capitalist decomposition. The tendency to an absolute paupersiation of the masses, that was unknown in the crisis of the 1930s and the War, is a most fundamental manifestation of the extraordinary difficulties that the process of reproduction of capitalism suffers and it constitutes a concrete experience for the current generation of the masses in relation to the historical destiny of capitalism. The current idle capacity of  world industry is the greatest since 1930, which is a sure index of the blockade of the productive forces and of the maturity of the contradiction between these and the capitalist relationships of production. The massive destruction of industries that has accompanied capitalist restoration in the former-USSR, in most of  Eastern Europe, and now in China, is nothing but a brutal manifestation of the enormity of the surplus of capital accumulated in relation to its possibilities of profits and of realization; the "peaceful" centralization of capitals that takes place in the world market assumes violent and overbearing characteristics when it is operated in the territories of the former workers' states. It  is not that we are faced by a confiscation of a capitalist by another in the framework of  market relationships and the law of the value, but of the confiscation of property by the capitalists which had been confiscated by the revolution in the framework of what was a planned economy. The mechanics of the current crisis begins to the reveal the antagonistic social character of the regime of the former workers' states and the world capitalist regime. The looting that produces capitalist restoration assumes, then, the form of a historical contradiction and shows the extension and the depth of the world crisis.


Economic Crisis and Political Crisis


            Politics is concentrated econonics, but the relationship between the one and the other is not mechanical. The democratist strategy, certainly, has yielded enormous benefits to North American imperialism. It allowed it to present a face to the revolutionary crises posed by the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes of Eastern Europe and Russia. It is the vehicle for a vast economic imperialist penetration in the former-workers' states, in particular in those of Eastern Europe and in China. The democratist politics is the battering ram with which imperialism seeks to demolish the Cuban regime and the one that allowed it to bury the revolutionary situations in central America, in South Africa.

            Even in  Europe, the democratist politics has played its role as it approves the "peace agreements" which have sunk the Irish national struggle. In Latin America, the democratist cycle is that of the political, economic and financial penetration of imperialism--and of the liquidation of the social conquests of the masses--the most profound in living memory. The economic monoplisation of the continent and the political subordination of its regimes to North American imperialism do not have precedents.

            The USA adopted the democratist politics, also, because of its own internal contradictions. The North American bourgeoisie went ahead with a wild reduction of the working wage and of the social conquests of the workers in the framework of Reaganism.

            Having exhausted the cycle, it still puts forward the call for a "second generation of reforms": the privatization of the health systems, of education and of pensions and the destruction of social security. In the face of these tasks, the Clinton attacks--with an "egalitarian" phraseology and with the backing of the trades union bureaucracy is vastly more effective for the bourgeoisie than the religious and republican right.

            The democratist politics, the democratic deceit, still has viability because the leaderships of the organizations of the masses--the trades union bureaucracy, social democracy, the reconverted ex-Stalinists, the democratist left--is integrated in the politics of "democratic" imperialism. In the face of the lack of political independence of the proletariat, the growing social polarization is not translated into a political polarization on the axes of class. In this framework the ascent of workers struggles that are manifesting themselves in Asia and, in a less marked form, in Latin America, Europe and USA, is an additional reason why the bourgeoisie avoids the "extreme way out". The trades union bureaucracy and the democratist parties of the left have been revealed as infinitely more effective than the right in retarding, and leading to defeat, the struggles of the exploited.

            It is certain, on the other hand, that the Asian crisis caused the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship and the debut of the revolution in Indonesia; it is also a fact that the Eastern European crisis (the "financial pyrimids")  was the cause of the Albanian revolution; it is also true that the economic crisis has accentuated, by dozens of thousands, the workers strikes and the rural risings in China; it is equally sure that the so-called "samba effect" caused the occupation of car factories in Brazil, the blocking of roads and the temporary retreat of the imperialist employers in the maintenance of the massive sackings that had already been put into practice. In Argentina from the commencement of the decline of the "Cavallo Plan", the Santiaguenazo, the Cutralcazo and the Jujenazo have been produced; The Menem and Peronist government are strongly divided and there is a constant, although irregular, politcal radicalisation; which could negate the enormous miners strike in Romania, which was unleashed in response to the IMF agreement; without forgetting the importance of the movement of the French masses, since 1985; nor the extraordinary development of the Colombian guerrilla movement, very close to the United States, on the one hand, and to Cuba, on the other, and whose progress has gone in parallel to the economic crisis; in Russia struggles of resistance are developing from the workers; even in the United States the trades union ebb tide is a thing of the past, as is demonstrated by the strikes at UPS, General Motors, the defence of the sacked workers at Caterpillar, the barrage of strikes of airline pilots. The "experts" attribute this trades union renaissance to low North American unemployment, but what motivates the workers is the fall of the wages, the enormous labour flexibility, the precariousness of  employment, in sum, the attacks which the capitalists are obliged to mount in order to overcome the economic crisis.

            An inversion of the tendency of popular international struggles exists in relation to the decade of 1985/1994.


Crisis and "Centre-Left"


            The combination of the economic wounds with the insurgency of the masses leads the bourgeoisie to important political changes, in which under the form of governments of the "centre-left", in a rightest form, the formulae of class collaboration typical of the popular fronts are renewed. As a whole, the center-leftist governments of class collaboration accede to government when, from ever more wide capitalist circles, "regulation" of the movements of capitals is demanded in order to safeguard the same; public measures in the face of unemployment; organized exchange bands between the main currencies: establishment of regional banks as a counterweight to the IMF. And these demands not only have to be seen with the crisis in its economic aspect but more especially with its 'social' aspect, that is to say, with the tendency of the masses to respond again with struggles, be it the workers and peasants or the students. Although the movements of greatest scale have been the mobilizations of the miners of the Ruhr, at the beginning of 1997, and the strikes of public sector workers, truck drivers and bus drivers in France, on repeated occasions; also there have been combined movements on the scale of Europe and, in the case of Belgium, a gigantic mobilization of masses, that still continues to be organized against the corruption and the official paedophilia. The neoliberal governments or conservatives were removed because they had been constituted in an element of uncertainty of the political situation. The centre-left governments are literally obliged to try to modify the conditions and the politics that their predecessors transformed from factors of stability into factors of interference, on pain of ending up in the same way, but with the added difficulty of having drained the "moderate" solutions. What converted the conservative governments into factors of "disorder" was the exhaustion of their neoliberal politics, the deepening of the world crisis and their inability to contain the masses which reacted to the crisis.


World Political Crisis


            The irreversible collapse of Stalinism in 1989/ 91, the obvious failure of neoliberalism of the right and the impossibility of returning to reforms of the traditional social democratic type led to the emergence of the so-called new "centre-left". The capitalist governments try to negotiate the crisis against the workers, to the benefit of big capital.

            In Europe, most of the countries are led by this type of government, which not only do not introduce reforms and concessions but rather are responsible for attacks against the past conquests of the European working class and counterreforms.

            The conflict between the social needs of the masses and the politics of the governments of the center-left become a source of political tension and uncertainty in Italy, France, Germany and  Greece.

            The imperialist European Union, in order to face the world crisis and  the competition from America, especially with the introduction of the euro and the transition towards monetary union, has to destroy the "rigidities and resistances in the labour markets" in order to introduce its "deregulation", on the road taken previously in the Anglo-Saxon countries, and try to overcome the inequalities and conflicts between the different levels and national interests.

            The transformation of the initial euphoria over the euro into its own crisis is due not only to recurrent factors but to structural ones. In spite of all its proclamations, Europe remains deeply divided along national lines. The European Central Bank could not work like the Federal Reserve of the USA; also the divisions between the central bankers, the national governments and between the leading circles of each individual country, impedes Europe from economically threatening North American hegemony, as well as politically and militarily. The European fiasco in the Balkans, from Dayton to Rambouillet, demonstrates it graphically.


For  the United States Socialists of Europe


            In the face of the impact of the world crisis after 1997,  imperialist Europe has to accelerate its social "restructuring", destroying all the previous forms of regulation of the antagonisms of  capital with labour. The coalitions of the bourgeois center-left are promoted in order to do the dirty work that the parties of the bourgeois traditional right are unable to carry out.

            But these recent political formations, which arose as a product of the crisis, enter in turn into crisis.

            In this situation, the LO/LCR electoral agreement for a common list in the European elections of 1999,  was able to be, and had to be, a call to struggle against the European bourgeoisie, their political leaders and the counterrevolutionary social measures, showing a socialist road out of the crisis based on a transitional programme.

            But what has happened in fact is that they have failed to do this. In no place does the perspective of socialism appear, not even the word, neither is the most vital slogan of all posed, the United States Socialists of Europe, of the East and of the West.

            The question is: do we have the struggle for a "democratic Europe", or for the Socialist States of Europe? Do we have the confiscation of capital, the expropriation of the expropriators, or do we call only for "restricting" the movement of free capitals and their "speculative" benefits?  Between these two alternatives there is no compromise. The destiny of the next social confrontations in Europe are linked to this.

            A true revolutionary intervention in the European elections should begin with independence of the eventual slogan of a vote to the reformist and centrist parties, of the elaboration and postulation of a true revolutionary platform, without any concession to the "European" party of the bourgeoisie, and expounding, in the first place, the struggle against the reactionary national states and governments to which the "European construction" seeks to serve as a screen against the masses. This should be the starting point for a programme of transitional demands that concludes with measures to exproriate capital and the independent government of the workers.


For the World Unity of the Exploited: for the Fourth International


            In Latin America the tendency exists to respond to the gigantic process of economic expropriation and political alienation through the  anti-imperialist political unity of the continent. The resurgence of the struggle for land, especially in Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico and Ecuador, the struggles of the unemployed, the occupations of factories in diverse countries,  expound the road in which this unity could concretise itself in the framewwork of the current crisis. The fight for a workers and peasants conference of Mercosur, expounded already in meetings promoted in the framework of the Conference of the Workers and the Left, should be developed as a point of decisive support in order to develop the independence of class and the alliance of workers and peasants, conditions of a deep anti-imperialist struggle and of (sustained courage? largo aliento).

            The perspective of  the Socialist United States of Latin America arises again as the strategic weapon in order to break the historical base of North American imperialism, constituting an essential aspect of the anticapitalist struggle on a world scale.

            The lash of  unemployment has world scope and unifies all the tendencies of capitalist decomposition in the current phase.

            The struggle for employment has, for that reason, a world and immediately objective character, being the decisive lever in order to unify the working class of each country and on an international scale.

            The politics of a 35 hour working week, expounded, especially, by the European centre-left, is revealed each day more as a lure in order to divert the struggles and introduce the wage cuts, temporary work, that does not pay for extra hours and labour flexibility. Against this politics, against the sackings and against the complicity of the trades union bureaucracies, the watchword of "work for all" should be expounded, distributing the existing working hours between all the capable workers, without loss of salary. This objectively expounds the workers' control of  production and the international unity of the workers: an International Conference against unemployment and in defense of the workers should be the objective of all consistent workers' leaders and should be expounded as the specific objective of a world campaign.

            In the framework of these and other struggles, the question of the international political unity of the workers is posed as the specific objective for all the organizations that struggle.

             The objective of the Workers' International should be consciously and consistently defended, through the elaboration of a transitional programme and the construction of an organization. It is not a matter of trying to build a new international tendency of  the enlightened that  defends their particular truths and is devoted to an endless settling of accounts with their real or imaginary opponents, but of the construction of the necessary instrument for the world victory of the working class and all the exploited.

            This International could only be built as the continuity of the world struggle of the workers, and of the assimilation of all their theoretical and programmatic conquests and concretised in the work of their best thinkers and militants (beginning with Marx) and in the programmes of their Internationals, up to and including their most recent and current expression in the programme and the method of the Fourth International. The consistent struggle for all the immediate objectives of the exploited only has perspective, therefore, if it takes one conscious and politically organized form through the immediate refoundation of the Fourth International.

Athens, 8 of March of 1999.