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November 27, 2001: In These Eventful Times the Course is Being Set for Important Changes in the Future Social Development

Interview of the "Red Flag" with Stefan Engel, chairman of the MLPD

stefan-engel.jpgLast week, for the fourth time in German post-war history, a German Chancellor called for a confidence vote in the federal parliament. Was this a show of power on behalf of Mr. Schroeder?

The necessity to call for a confidence vote expressed an open government crisis of the Schroeder-Fischer administration. Obviously, the increasing loss of confidence in the SPD/ Greens-administration had reached a point at which the government no longer felt itself in a position to push through its intensified offensive against the masses of people and its aggressive foreign policy in accordance with German monopoly capital. The deployment of German troops to the war area in the Near and Middle East is not the only part of the new foreign policy course. It also includes the massive dismantling of bourgeois-democratic rights and liberties.

The confidence vote served to discipline the factions of the parliament. On the one hand, it was a question of carrying out the course of the monopolies. On the other hand, it was also a test for the monopolies to find out what remains to be possible with this coalition.

The problem with the confidence vote is, however, that it may be possible to use it to discipline the parliamentary representatives, but not the broad masses! They have minds of their own and are obviously not prepared to support the war course of the German government without reservation.

So was the confidence vote, which was successful for Schroeder, able to subdue the political crisis?

By dictatorially disciplining those parliamentarians who are differently minded, the Schroeder-Fischer administration secured itself the necessary majority within the coming months for the first. At the same time, it served to increase the lack of trust of the masses of people in the Schroeder-Fischer government. The "solution" of the governmental crisis through the confidence vote deepened the latent political crisis in the end and will strengthen the process of the masses breaking away from the bourgeois parties, from bourgeois parliamentarism and its institutions.

The debates and votes on the party congresses of the SPD and the Greens demonstrated how shaky their basis is. In the SPD, more than 10 percent voted against the foreign policy course of the federal government and in the Greens, more than 30 percent. At the same time, it has to be taken into account that the combination of this vote with the question of continuing the coalition strongly manipulated the approach to voting. One can imagine what the basis or even the body of electors of these parties really thinks. The wave of withdrawals from the party among the Social-Democrats and the Greens marks a new quality in the disintegration of the government's social basis. An unstable situation has emerged in which social problems have increased drastically and those in power have great difficulties in selling their policy to the masses at all.

 

This discontent is not limited to the government's line of foreign policy.

The transition to a new worldwide economic crisis, which can hardly be contested, is, of course, the material basis of the changing power politics in domestic as well as foreign affairs, a crisis that will not spare the European countries and Germany either.

The MLPD was completely right when, in the middle of this year, it rejected the crisis propaganda of those in power. It aimed in particular at keeping the workers from waging the struggle for an additional wage increase. Now economic data indicate that the entire Western world is tumbling into a new worldwide economic crisis. Just last week Wednesday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had to adjust its economic forecast downwards. It presently assumes that for the first time in twenty years, the GNP (Gross National Product) will decline in the industrial countries in the second half of this year.

The USA is already hit by a genuine overproduction crisis. Since the 3rd quarter of 2000 there has been a decline in industrial production. In October it fell for the 13th time consecutively and experienced the greatest downturn for 11 years. The negative figures already amounted to 6.5 per cent since the beginning of the negative economic development. Today the industrial production in the USA is at the same level as in July 1999. The situation is even worse regarding the capacity utilization in industry. Today it is only 74.8 per cent and has reached the lowest level since June 1983.

Japan, as well, has been affected by the overproduction crisis. Since February 2001 industrial production is declining at an accelerated pace. In April it fell by 4.1 per cent compared to the previous month, in July by 9.8 per cent, and in September by 11.5 per cent. Industrial production has thus reached the same level as at the beginning of 1999.

Presently in all the 15 European countries, as well, there is a fall in the growth rates of the industrial production and the GNP. In countries like Great Britain, Spain and Finland, industrial production is already declining absolutely, a fact that points to the beginning transition to an overproduction crisis. Due to its share of almost 40 per cent in exports, the German economy was able to profit from the high value of the US-dollar for some time. Now the dependence on exports is backfiring. Since June the orders from foreign countries have been continuously declining, until September by 17.8 per cent.

Industrial production fell by 2.3 per cent in the 2nd quarter compared to the previous quarter, and in the 3rd quarter it went down again by 0.4 per cent. In September 2001 it reached the second lowest level since June 2000. Since June 2001 mainly the orders in industry are declining; in September there was a drop of 6.3 per cent compared to the previous month.

Those in power are frantically trying to take measures to dampen the crisis, which however are less and less effective due to the reorganization of international production and distribution. In the USA the base rates have already been reduced 10 times since the beginning of 2001, in the European region four times, in Japan two times. However, this could not slow down the economic downturn. The economic programs of the USA totaling several 100 billion dollars could not reverse the development up to now. An economic program at the beginning of this year totaling 40 billion US-dollars was nearly ineffective. Even the dramatic fall in oil prices of 40 per cent has not stopped the development towards the crisis. We have to expect enormous collapses and turmoil in this worldwide economic crisis,

- First of all, because the biggest monopolies are directly affected and nearly all imperialist countries are involved,

- secondly, because a gigantic amount of excess capital that does not yield maximum profits has been accumulated,

- thirdly, because neocolonialism has entered a deep crisis and

- because the crisis management of the state to contain the crisis is almost ineffective.

What can you say regarding the claim that the negative economic development is the result of the September 11 terrorist attacks?

This again is a typical fairy tale aimed at diverting attention from the real causes of the crises in capitalism! There is, of course, no doubt that the terrorist attacks in the USA have speeded up the development towards a worldwide economic crisis. However, they are not the cause of it, as imperialist propaganda is maintaining. The main cause of the present worldwide economic crisis is the impact of the international structural crisis that has emerged with the reorganization of international production during the last decade.

The relative ineffectiveness of the measures regulating the crisis is an important background for the growing aggressiveness of US-imperialism. This aggressiveness saw in the reactionary September 11 terrorist attacks merely a good opportunity for pursuing a reactionary war policy.

After the terrorist attacks, the international stock-market crisis starting from the USA has deepened with severe repercussions on the economy. For a time, the share index of the German stock exchange lost almost 60 per cent since its peak in March 2000, an amount that numerically corresponds to the destruction of capital of about 1 billion DM in the 30 biggest German joint-stock companies. This stock-market crisis makes the permanent destruction of capital by means of mergers and takeovers more difficult, which today are financed mainly by the exchange of stocks. The share value of the worldwide mergers thus declined by 54 per cent in the first half of this year, and the number of mergers fell by 25 per cent. This increases the pressure mainly on the international monopolies to destroy the overaccumulated capital. However, we have to take into consideration that the stock market is only an expression of the development of production and not the cause of the worldwide economic crisis. It can only deepen and accelerate this crisis. We are now experiencing this development.

More than two and a half months have passed since 12 September , when President Bush proclaimed the "New War" against "international terrorism". What is the result of this imperialist campaign up till now and what can we expect to happen in the future?

 

It is really astounding how quickly all imperialist countries without exception were united with most of the reactionary governments of almost all developing countries in starting the "New War against international terrorism". The "New War" proclaimed by Bush is, in essence, a permanent declaration of war on the world. Its content is the claim of the leading imperialist countries to take unlimited action against governments which they dislike and especially against the struggle for national and social liberation. The entire Middle and Near East has recently become the deployment area of the NATO and on 7 October the imperialist invasion of Afghanistan began.

In the meantime, the Taliban government has broken down, but the initial unity on the "New War" is crumbling. In Afghanistan the behavior of the people has proved to be decisive for overthrowing the Taliban government. Uprisings took place in several places. The masses of people are justifiably demanding especially a sovereign decision on the future of their country. Most Arab countries have refused to give NATO direct military and logistical support. They tolerated it at the most. The new international peace movement should not be underestimated. It is not being led by bourgeois monopoly parties at least with regard to Germany.

This all has strengthened the forces against imperialism. The imperialists in the USA, in Europe, Japan and Russia did not expect that the masses of people worldwide would take a critical point of view against their war so quickly. I am firmly convinced that the governmental crisis of the Schroeder/Fischer administration of the past weeks is not the only price which the rulers must pay for the NATO aggression.

It becomes apparent that all fundamental contradictions will be intensifying within the coming months and years: the contradiction between the working class and the ruling capitalist class, the contradiction between the international proletariat and the ruling international monopolies and their governments, the contradiction between the oppressed and dependent countries as well as the contradiction among the imperialist countries. Not least, the general fundamental contradiction between capitalism and socialism will unfold again and a new upsurge for genuine socialism will develop.

In this connection many changes will be taking place affecting people in their living conditions. Former ties, former traditions will dissolve; long accustomed patterns of behavior will prove to be unsuitable and will be replaced by new ones. New demands will appear and new perspectives will open up. To put it short: things will become very different. It is a time in which the course is being set for important changes in the future social development.

What proposals has the MLPD got for the struggle against the "New War" and to what extent have its tactics succeeded up to now?

 

In the same night as the invasion of the NATO powers in Afghanistan began, the Central Committee of the MLPD consulted on the situation and reacted. From the very beginning we called for active resistance against this invasion and the "New War". On the following day, we were the main force organizing protests in about 60 German cities in which about 10,000 people participated. At the same time, we actively supported the broad unity of action of all war opponents on the basis of the struggle against the war and against German participation in this war and actively mobilized people for the central demonstrations in Berlin and Stuttgart on 13 October. Our slogan of active resistance against Bush's "New War" is based on the belief that the war can only be obstructed or prevented through struggle. It is hopeless to count on the peaceful insight of the ruling politicians.

The "New War" is nothing less than imperialist power politics to redivide the world. The international working class and the peoples of the world are the ones who suffer from this imperialist adventure and who are therefore also the main force opposing the war mongers. We can observe that mainly young people are becoming active in the anti-war activities and that it is especially they who agree with the line of active resistance and the politics of the MLPD. It is the task of the youth league REBELL to organize the rebellion of the masses of young people against this war. At the same time, the party must qualify REBELL for this and help it to introduce masses of young people to the Marxist-Leninist program.

It is actually astounding to what extent support for the government has dwindled after such a short period of time, when I remember how much time the broad masses of people needed to oppose the Vietnam War of the USA. That took years! Now, from the very beginning, there was great concern over possible belligerent conflicts and a broad anti-war consciousness developed rapidly. In the case of this war, the government was at no time able to get the enthusiastic support of the majority. That, of course, is a good basis for the struggle against the government under the slogan "The country needs new politicians".

Of course, we must welcome the fact that in parliament the PDS rejected the deployment of forces of the German Federal Army in Afghanistan. But we must also resolutely oppose its hypocritical line of argument. It did not speak out against imperialist power politics fundamentally, but rather only wants to refrain from using military measures. The core of imperialist power politics however is the economic, political and military control of the Near and Middle East with its rich oil and natural gas resources. Just like the Greens, the PDS leaders are very much interested in developing their own ability to govern. Therefore they are no reliable partners in the struggle against the "New War". That is a further important reason for the task of shifting the balance of power between the MLPD and PDS lastingly in favor of the MLPD. We have achieved some considerable success in that during the last few years. We will achieve further success in the active participation in the struggle for peace, whereby we do cooperate with PDS members on the basis of struggle.

What consequences will the transition to the worldwide economic crisis have?

Most importantly, the transition to the worldwide economic crisis will lead to a general sharpening of class contradictions. According to statistics of the GSA e.V. (Gesellschaft zur Förderung wissenschaftlicher Studien zur Arbeiterbewegung, Society for the Promotion of Scientific Studies on the Working-Class Movement), located in the city of Essen, the destruction of 650,000 jobs, especially in banks and insurance companies, was announced for this year alone. In Germany, too, for the first time since 1998, the official unemployment figures rose again in October. That means that Schroeder's promise to bring unemployment down at least below the level of 3.5 million has been broken. The exploitation offensive is being intensified in the enterprises. The monopolies are already demanding a drastic intensification of the Berlin crisis program. It is very probable that we can expect a national election in the fall of next year taking place under negative economic conditions. That means that some surprises are awaiting us.

What conclusions should be drawn from the worldwide economic development?

In the first place, we have to reckon with the fact that every crisis intensifies the struggle between the proletarian mode of thinking and the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking among the masses. People realize that something is changing and they must decide which road they should take: Do they look for an individual way out in the hope of being spared? Or do they do everything possible to advance the common struggle of the workers and the broad masses of people? On the background of the present balance of power it is not yet determined whether the present massive threats of mass layoffs will lead to a transition to the working-class offensive or to a relapse in the class-consciousness of the workers.

We will do everything possible so that the workers will fight against the massive deterioration of their living conditions and that they will give the Schroeder/Fischer government hell. During an economic crisis it is especially important to defend the wages and working conditions and to propagate offensive militant demands like the 30-hour-week with full wage compensation. Just on the basis of figures, this could lead to the creation of millions of new jobs.

In addition, the workers must learn to combine economic and political issues and to become active against the "New War". It is important that the workers consistently start from workers' interests and do not let themselves be made responsible for the capitalist economic development.

 

 

It is well known that comprehensive wage negotiations are coming up in the spring. Word has been spread that a deal has already been negotiated at the highest level.

 

If it goes by the justified demands of the blue- and white-collar workers, substantial wage increases are due. In fact, today, real net income is lower than it was ten years ago! On this background, it is absolutely justified to be especially vigilant in these rounds of wage negotiations. In issue 46/2001, the news magazine "Spiegel" reported on secret talks between German Chancellor Schroeder wiith seven chairmen of DGB trade unions on 26 October: "According to internal DGB-minutes for the trade union chairmen, wage negotiations should not become a burden for the administration's course in the election year 2002. Under item 10 of the agreement, the trade unions therefore commit themselves `to taking the current weak phase in the economy into consideration in income policy' ...The trade unions shall reach a short-term transitional wage agreement which shall be valid until the autumn of next year and which shall take the insecure situation into consideration, giving all parties the "air they need to breathe" . Following that, of course only after the elections, the real wage negotiations shall take place."

With this deal, the right-wing trade union leaders betray the interests of millions of trade union members in order to back the federal government up in the election year. And that was said after the last wage agreements were made for two years with the promise to really put up high demands later on!

Zwickel and Huber of the right-wing IG Metall leadership furthermore support variable wage agreements, i.e. a minimum raise and a raise tied to the economic situation of the enterprise. In this development toward an economic crisis, this two-stage system is favorable to the capitalists. These variable wage agreements must be determinedly rejected because they split the working-class. In an opinion poll conducted by the metal-workers trade union magazine >>direkt<<, five out of six shop steward leaders reject these differentiated wage agreements.

It is rather doubtful whether the workers will be giving the capitalists and the government the "air to breathe" that they need. Initial protests are already developing in factories, for example those of the metal workers at the motor saw producer Stihl in Waiblingen and at Porsche in Stuttgart, who are "prepared to use all means of union struggle".

In short, very important changes in the economic and political situation are becoming apparent which also require a principled examination.

In the framework of this theoretical work, the MLPD published REVOLUTIONARY WAY 27/28 "The Class Struggle and the Liberation of Women" after its last party congress and sold a total of about 5000 copies by now. Which theoretical tasks are most important at present?

At the time, we are working on a further double issue of our theoretical organ REVOLUTIONARY WAY entitled "The Internationalization of Capitalist Production and the International Character of the Proletarian Revolution". In the first part we will be dealing in particular with the reorganization of the international capitalist production in the 1990's which has introduced a new phase of imperialism. It is connected with a redivision of the world and leads to a series of changes in the structure of the world capitalist system. Questions like the following are being dealt with: the dissolution of the national state production in state monopoly capitalism existing up till now in favor of the reorganization of capitalist production on an international level under the direction of the international monopolies. The new crisis of neocolonialism, the role of today's stock markets, the emergence of new ruling international monopolies, changes in agriculture but also the ideological-political debate concerning bourgeois and petty-bourgeois "globalization" theories are also being examined. In the second part, we will be dealing especially with the conclusions we have to draw from this new development in the imperialist world system for the revolutionary strategy and tactics in class struggle and for the preparation of the international revolution. In any case, an important debate has been taking place in the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement for quite some time to which we want to make a contribution with our theoretical work. The work on this issue of REVOLUTIONARY WAY is the most important task of the Central Committee in the coming time. The appeal of the MLPD depends on its ability to give the working class and the broad masses of people a comprehensive answer to those questions at any time which result from the changes in their lives.

Last weekend, the MLPD started its campaign all over Germany for winning new members and donations for the MLPD with 50 events last weekend.

It was a new idea in party work to conduct a short and effective campaign for winning members and donations, subscribers to the "Rote Fahne" (Red Flag) and the "Rebell"-magazine, as well as permanent donators for the MLPD and to focus the entire party on this campaign. We celebrated the beginning of the campaign with festivities. The success was overwhelming. These events met with a good response, far more than 2,000 people attended them and also made them a financial success. More than DM 100,000 were collected for the party work. The events also had the task of introducing the tactical main task in which we intend to strengthen the MLPD considerably in connection with the participation in the state election in Saxony-Anhalt next year. This shall become a school in which we learn how to build up the party systematically at a faster rate and how to succeed in using the crisis-prone development for strengthening the struggle of the working class and the broad masses.

Why is the strengthening of the MLPD so important in this situation?

The MLPD is still a relatively small force reaching only a relatively small portion of the population, especially since the bourgeois press still totally ignores us. Due to this fact we are still relatively restricted in our possibilities to build up and lead movements for social change.

Today we experience that many people have high hopes in the MLPD which the MLPD cannot fulfill with its present forces. Since the last party congress, membership has increased by about 7 per cent, that of REBELL by a two-digit figure. This is a positive development altogether, but still far below our possibilities, and it shows that the task of systematically winning new members is not yet fully implemented in our systematic rank-and-file work. It is often assumed that membership development is a spontaneous result of our various activities. Instead, we have to make membership development a conscious objective of our systematic rank-and-file work and admit as many people as possible to the party and educate them for the various tasks in class struggle and the mass movements. If we do not succeed in achieving a sustainable increase in membership in the next years, there will inevitably be the danger that the MLPD will be overrun by the development.

At the last plenary session of the CC there was an important discussion about this point.

We made a comprehensive investigation of the development of the rank-and-file work of the MLPD since the 6th Party Congress. We observed that many decisions of the 6th Party Congress have not yet been implemented. Especially in the systematic work in the neighborhoods, we must say that hardly any neighborhood party group is already working on the basis of the principles that are laid down in the new program and other documents adopted at the 6th Party Congress. Many neighborhood party groups pay little attention to the systematic work in factories and trade unions and have taken on too many different tasks. But, we established the principle that each group should relate its work to one self-organization of the masses in the interrelationship with the mass movements. Everything else is a task that cannot be fulfilled and that makes excessive demands on the activists in the self-organizations as well as on the party group that is not able to concern itself thoroughly and comprehensively with all those questions. Putting such a latent strain on the neighborhood party groups will of course result in neglecting the winning of new members. In such a situation many mistakes are made, too.

In the work in factories and trade unions, we are also still at the start of developing a systematic work which should result in an increase in the effectiveness of factory party units in big enterprises. At the center of this work is the cooperation among groups belonging to the same company, because today, the tactics for the struggle in the enterprises can less and less be developed out of the individual enterprises alone.

Especially the development of a cadre work of a new type is still insufficient. The work among the cadres has not kept pace with the new demands on our members. The education, care and advancement of our members must be given more priority. All this is related to the fact that in the practical work of the party a tendency of underestimating the role of the MLPD in class struggle has emerged. Today we are working in various self-organizations and mass movements. This is a very good thing. At the same time the party must not opportunistically conform with these mass movements. It must conduct meetings independently, sell its Marxist-Leninist literature and state clearly the position of the MLPD. The advancement of the self-organizations of the masses and the various mass movements must be regarded in dialectical unity with the systematic building of the party and its development towards the party of the masses. This is the present main discussion in the party.

Where do all these problems come from?

All these problems that I am talking about are problems in advancing, in the transition to a new social role that the MLPD is playing in society. The MLPD is at the peak of its development up to now. It has the highest membership figures in its existence. In the last two years it has been able to win considerable mass influence among the workers, in the trade unions, in the women's movement, in the struggle for peace and among the youth. However, all this is inevitably accompanied by new demands. The increase in membership and the education of new functionaries has not kept pace with this development. This is the burning question which has to be solved now - but for the solution of which all prerequisites have matured. When we speak of the necessary strengthening of the MLPD we not only talking about the winning of new members, subscribers and an increase in donation activities for the MLPD, but also about a higher quality of our rank-and-file work in practice. For this purpose the leadership work must be oriented much more towards these greater demands of the systematic rank-and-file work of the party. The struggle over the mode of thinking in the party and revolutionary vigilance must be geared to this task. Then we will be able to use the great opportunities which the present development is offering us for making further progress.

Thank you very much for this talk.

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