" A new tactical starting situation"

Interview given by Stefan Engel, chairman of the MLPD, to the "Red Flag" of the MLPD December 29, 2008

 

Red Flag: Undoubtedly the international financial crisis has been at the center of the social development in the last months. How is this development to be evaluated?

Stefan Engel: The dimension of the present international speculative, financial, stock market and banking crisis is a new phenomenon unprecedented in the history of capitalism. It is based on fundamental changes in the imperialist world system. These have been caused by a reorganization of the international production since the 1990s. In this process all national barriers have been torn down. The small group of the about 500 biggest industrial, banking and agricultural monopolies has established its dictatorship over the capitalist world market and the industrial world production which is mainly organized internationally today.

This world dominating financial capital has accelerated the process of capitalist accumulation in the hands of a few monopolies in such a way that the possibilities of realizing maximum profits by selling their products on the world markets could no longer keep pace with it. The basis for this was a gigantically increased exploitation of the working class in all countries combined with a systematic plundering of the state budgets at the expense of the broad masses. In addition to this there are the devastating consequences which the neo-colonial plundering leaves behind in the countries exploited and oppressed by imperialism.

The law-based relative and more and more absolute impoverishment of the masses has reached a new dimension. Almost one billion people in the world are starving according to official UN reports. The impoverishment of the masses has meanwhile brought poverty to the imperialist countries, too.

If you want to understand the causes of the present financial crisis you have to deal with the problem of speculation. The international supermonopolies have taken control of the world economy with their speculative financial capital, which brings the entire decadence of the imperialist world system to a head. The insatiable greed for maximum profits, but also the diminishing possibilities for investing the capital accumulated at an accelerated rate in the production process to yield maximum profit, has pushed financial capital more and more into the sphere of speculation in connection with the reorganization of international production – mainly during the last four years. Speculative capital has meanwhile acquired a dominating position in relation to the productive capital. There is hardly any branch in industry and trade or in the so-called service sector which is not based mainly on speculative capital. This shows the growing decadence of the imperialist world system that meanwhile even commodities of elementary life like wheat, rice, water, health, education, energy, social insurance etc. have been turned into objects of speculation. This has made the world economy and the world financial system extremely unstable and was bound to have devastating repercussions sooner or later.

The speculation is nothing else than an arbitrary anticipation of profits which can be expected in the future. In the end, every kind of profit is based on the exploitation of wage labor in the capitalist production. For this reason speculation cannot be detached from the real process of capitalist production and reproduction at will. It can easily be foreseen that such a speculative bubble will burst when the expected profits fail to materialize at the latest.

In 1990, there was a similar deep financial crisis in Japan, which set off an overproduction crisis in Japan and considerably set back Japanese imperialism in the international competition. It took almost 15 years for Japan to cope with the consequences and effects of this crisis. However, the financial crisis had only a national character, whereas today no country in the world can evade the present financial crisis. The bourgeois financial world is faced with the shattered remains of its own propaganda and fantasy.

It is no accident that the process of latent overproduction of capital has come to a halt first in the core country of imperialism – the USA. There the major part of the international financial capital and, with that, also of the speculative capital is concentrated.

In order to get out of the world economic crisis of 2001 to 2003, the US government had launched several crisis management programs. At least 600 billion US dollars had been poured into the economy. Hundreds of thousands of American people had been talked into realizing the dream of an easily financed house of their own by means of cheap loans. An artificially created construction boom temporarily stimulated the US economy. The shaky mortgages were seemingly “covered” by risk insurances and these in turn had been sold worldwide as financial derivatives with an expected speculative profit of a two-digit percentage. The entire international banking world thus wanted to have a share of these extra profits and rushed at these lucrative bonds. When more and more house buyers in the USA were no longer able to pay back their mortgages – among other things, because the central banks pushed up the base rates to more than 6.5 percent, a wave of compulsory auctions and emergency sales occurred. The real estate prices went through the floor and more and more mortgages were turned into foul credits, because the value of the real estate fell below the value of the mortgages. So the international banks had to write down billions of losses. In this situation the speculative bubble burst.

The highly speculative derivatives alone had reached an inconceivable nominal value of 600 billion US dollars at the end of 2007. The real material equivalent of these speculative financial derivatives, however, amounted to only about 15 billion US dollars– a fortieth of the speculative capital. It was only a question of time when this would collapse like a house of cards and when the circulation process of the capital would be disrupted drastically.

The international mortgage crisis beginning in the USA very quickly dragged the international big banks into the crisis turmoil and spread rapidly to the whole world. Now money at the financial markets was getting tight, the banks did not trust their own system any more, did not lend money to each other, withheld loans for the industry or tightened considerably the conditions for credits. Emergency sales of blocks of shares, in order to get liquid money, led to an international stock market crisis. In October 2008, the amount of losses in this international speculative, mortgage, banking and stock market crisis was already four hundred times higher than in the deepest world economic crisis up to now in 1929.

The acute danger of a collapse of the imperialist world financial system forced the imperialist countries and the biggest capitalist countries into an unprecedented and concerted international crisis management. At the G 20 summit on November 15 and 16 in Washington, apart from the seven leading imperialist countries also Brazil, Russia, India, China (the so-called BRIC states) as well as nine further countries were involved: Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi-Arabia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey. These countries all together provide for about 80 per cent of the world gross domestic product. Typically, supranational imperialist institutions like the IMF (International Monetary fund) and the EU also had their own seat at this summit.

Almost 10 billion US dollars have been poured into the financial system or raised as securities by central banks and governments in order to maintain the money transactions. Apart from the economic effect this mainly served as state propaganda of relief to calm the masses, in order to prevent panic activities of withdrawing money from the banks, which would have brought the financial system to a standstill. These measures, however, have fostered an enormous process of concentration in the banking sector: In the shark basin the greediest ones survive and new gigantic banking and corporate structures emerge. Here the winners of the crisis are given a new start!

Of course, the international financial capital knows that national activities of a single country or of a single power block will be relatively ineffective due to the worldwide dimension of this crisis. In spite of competition they therefore had no other choice than acting commonly!

Red Flag: Have these internationally coordinated financial measures of the imperialists in the world been successful?

Stefan Engel: Up to now they have prevented an immediate and uncontrollable collapse of the world financial system and a wave of bank bankruptcies. However, they of course could not change anything regarding the causes of this financial crisis. Its starting point in the last five years was just an enormous overexpansion and price reduction of the available money capital as material basis of the transformation of capital into speculative capital. This is now being repeated as a crisis-retarding measure and the price of money is being drastically reduced. In order to slow down the speculation crisis the speculation is again being stimulated, thus preparing the next crash! The central banks are now decreasing the base rates. In the USA the base rate has fallen to the historically lowest point of nearly zero percent. The base rates will possibly be pushed into the negative meaning that the banks have to pay no interests any more for the money that they borrow from the central banks, but that they even get a discount if they provide themselves with cheap money. This is like giving a heroin addict who is shaken by withdrawal symptoms a new big portion of heroin – the temporary solution to his convulsions will sooner or later, but certainly, kill him.

So the state measures to deal with the crisis aggravate the real main cause of the international financial crisis: the contradiction between the prospering accumulation of capital and the stagnation of the international markets. A worldwide deflation will be the immediate effect. This deflation devalues the commodities in relation to money and is a form of the crisis-prone destruction of surplus capital. It brings the production process of capital to a standstill and destroys the fluctuation of money as a means of payment.

The capital, which the state budgets now give to the financial capital, will bring about a new wave of redistribution of the national income from the bottom to the top. The imperialists have no other possibility than to squeeze it of the masses by means of intensified exploitation and, with that, further and again deteriorating their living conditions tremendously. Because of the existential link of the crisis regulation to the overexpansion of the state budgets, the national debt will assume inconceivable dimensions and cause the danger of a future inflationary development.

 

 

Red Flag: In the meantime, there is not only talk of the financial crisis, but of a “worldwide recession” or even of a “world economic crisis”. What do you make of it?

 

Stefan Engel: At the beginning of the financial crisis, when people did not yet reckon with such an effect on the economy, the “crisis devil” was purposefully evoked, of course, to win over the people for the, up to now, inconceivable crisis programs at the expense of the working people. People have been told over years that you have to economize, because money ran low. Now, within one night, the federal government was able to promise 500 Billion euros in subsidies and sureties to counteract the banking crisis in Germany. From the standpoint of the masses this is hardly acceptable.

 

However, a real economic slump has set in by now. To call this a recession would be, on the other hand, sugar-coating. The quarterly fluctuation under the zero growth line which is meant has little to do with a genuine overproduction.

 

The world automobile industry was the forerunner of this development with a sales slump in the US, Europe and Japan, which make up about two-thirds of the world’s sales. The automobile sales in the US dropped by 41.4 percent within the period of one year. The big US automobile companies GM, Ford and Chrysler are facing bankruptcy. The world’s biggest automobile company, Toyota from Japan, is facing a loss of 1.2 billion euros due to the production slump 2008, after record earnings of more than 17 billion euros in 2007. The decrease in sales of European HGV production in November 2008 by 30 percent was the biggest ever. VW intends to reduce its automobile sales by 20 percent in 2009. Nearly all German automobile companies have agreed on production stops for several weeks at the turn of the year and several months of short-time work.

 

Unlike the world economic crisis from 2001 to 2003, there are few possibilities to switch to the “growth markets” India, China, Russia, Eastern Europe and Brazil. Those have been caught in the maelstrom of the crisis themselves and reduced their production decisively. Due to the decreasing effect of the state-run crisis regulation, the fluctuations upward between the crises and downward in the crisis are stronger than in former crises.

 

Against this background the primary industries like steel, chemistry or mining are also recording decisive production downturns in the meantime. The world steel production declined parallel to the financial crisis beginning with September, after reaching its historical climax in May 2008. The decline of minus 3,6 percent in September extended worldwide to minus 12.4 percent in October and minus 19 percent in November. The worldwide oil consumption dropped to the level it had 26 years ago.

The situation for the nonmonopoly bourgeoisie is even worse than for the international supermonopolies. They are totally dependent on the orders of the ruling monopolies and encounter acute financial difficulties caused by the stagnation of the production and the restrictive credit policy of the banks towards them. They also finance everything on credits, which are less and less available and certainly only repayable if the production runs.

 

However, first of all, the shifting of the burden of the crisis onto the working class and the broad masses has set in: tens of thousands of subcontracted workers were dismissed, short-time work was initiated for hundreds of thousands of workers and its extension announced for the next year. At the same time, the masses are confronted with a drumfire of renunciation propaganda that shall mainly win over the core of the industrial proletariat for dramatic cuts in salaries and wages. In the neocolonial dependent and oppressed countries this will lead to an even more rigorous plundering.

 

Thus the international financial crisis became a trigger for the world economic crisis that we had predicted for a long time. This economic downturn to a level we had years ago, proceeds internationally in all important industrial countries relatively simultaneously and abruptly, and not in a staggered and dampened way like the world economic crises we have had since the Second World War. We have to assume that the beginning world economic crisis is going to dwarf everything we experienced with world economic crises and economic slumps since the Second World War.

 

This is certainly a new tactical starting situation for Marxist-Leninist party building and class struggle. It is hard to predict what mankind can expect in the near future. But the interaction of the chronic structural crisis on the basis of the reorganization of the international production, of the international speculation-, financial-, stock market- and banking crisis with a distinctive world economic crisis means severe thunderstorms for the entire capitalist world! The general crisis of capitalism, the process of degeneration and decomposition of the capitalist social system is accelerating and deepening.

 

Red Flag: A crisis summit with the heads of the government, the employers' associations, the trade- union leadership, the banks and the leading economic experts met in Berlin on December 14. How should we evaluate this activity of the government?

 

Stefan Engel: Unlike the worldwide coordinated crisis management against the international financial crisis, national crisis programs come more and more to the fore at present. Thereby, the factor of sharpened competition between the imperialist countries and the international supermonopolies, and with that the character of imperialism, striving for world hegemony as embittered struggle for the redivision of the world, becomes evident. US imperialism attempts to rehabilitate its automobile industry under the slogan “every man for himself”. Russia has already imposed punitive tariffs of 30 percent on the import of cars. In Germany sureties for Opel are promised and, at the same time, it has virulently been announced that no cent of that may flow to the US. When an international crisis management is limited in its effect, a national one, which is supposed to counter the effects of a world economic crisis primarily on the national level, will be fruitless from the start and further sharpen the contradictions. If the assembled crisis managers dissemble that they prefer to avoid dismissals for operating reasons in 2009, this is hardly believable. One week later, the last coal mine in Gelsenkirchen, the Mine Lippe, was shut down on the expressed decision and arrangement of a similarly composed round. With a single stroke of a pen 5000 jobs in the region were sacrificed. Seen that, what is left of “avoiding dismissals for operating reasons”? We will experience that the burden of the crisis will be shifted onto the backs of the employees by a repitition of the “concerted operation”.

 

Sunday’s round in the chancellery brought about a “crisis alliance between the monopolies, the federal government and the rightist trade union leadership. The policy of class collaboration has been reoriented: While the burdens of the crisis are to be shifted onto the masses, the reformist trade union leaders have committed themselves to keeping quiet.

 

Red Flag: Don’t you think it is in the interest of the masses to further certain crisis dampening measures?

 

Stefan Engel: It depends on what you understand by that. There are surely no objections against stepping up job creation measures in such a time of crisis. Without doubt, the economy could be "enlivened" through a nationwide introduction of the 30-hour workweek with full wage compensation or by abolishing the Hartz IV laws. But our crisis managers adamantly refuse to do that!

 

The essence of the governmental anti-crisis programs is nothing else than a subsidy and investment program for the nationally based international monopolies implemented at the expense of the masses.

 

Whoever expected that the Left Party would at least approve of a policy of resistance against the shifting of the burdens onto the backs of the masses in such a situation, gets bitterly disappointed. On the contrary - the Left Party increasingly takes the line of a “critical” attendant of the grand coalition’s crisis policy by demanding like a mantra ever new economic stimulus packages and asking to decrease the base rate by the central bank. The 50-billion-euro program of the Left Party is associated with an entire flood of illusory theories over the role of the state. However, the state is no neutral institution which can be used for the benefit of the masses at will, but basically an instrument to assert the interests of the ruling monopolies against the interests of the masses. The policy of the Left Party is not only illusory, but also the unsuitable attempt to play the role of the doctor at the sick-bed of capitalism. The opportunism of the Left Party tries to cover up the class contradiction, which is going to tremendously aggravate and thereby show the masses plainly the essence of the system of exploitation. It is not our duty to save capitalism from its own decline, but to win the masses for a socialist alternative without exploitation and oppression.



Red Flag: What will be the impact of the upcoming world economic crisis on the development of class struggle ?

 

Stefan Engel: Every economic crisis gives rise not only to social, but to political crises as well, that more or less shake the capitalist system. The upcoming world economic crisis will accelerate the destabilization of the imperialist world system because of its expected depth and will be connected with tremendous upheavals of the economic basis and the political and ideological superstructure . Hard class struggles are the material basis for revolutionizing the working class and the broad masses of people.

 

Faced with the worldwide left tendency among the masses, the ruling powers are well aware that the future development possesses the tendency for a revolutionary world crisis. In a basic speech of 18 December 2008, the next president of the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI), Hans-Peter Keitel, stated that he is alarmed about the „loss of values“, the „rapid diminishing of credibility of the economic and political elite“ and the „loss of trust in the social and political order“. He is especially electrified, because the „renaissance of socialism“ can not only be observed in the new federal states, but has spread to the whole of Germany.

 

But whether the economic and political crises will be developing further into a revolutionary crisis, does not only depend on the objective, but, in the end, decisively on the subjective factors.

 

Therefore, the central question is whether the class consciousness of the working class can already develop so far, that it will see the way out from the capitalist disaster: the struggle for a socialist social order! This again basically depends on whether in the world's most important countries there are revolutionary workers' parties with a respective mass basis, which are theoretically and practically able to lead the revolutionary process of class struggle successfully without vacillations and to develop it purposefully to a higher level.

 

However, the experience of previous world economic crises teaches us that the struggles do not rise up directly with the outbreak of the crisis. In the face of the far-reaching changes, upheavals and drastic measures of the companies and governments, at first, insecurity and even existential fear and fear of the future normally arise spontaneously among the masses, due to the more or less strong influence of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. Such a situation first has to be digested by the workers and the masses. Therefore, today it is the most important task of the Marxist-Leninists to help the masses to fight out this developed struggle over the mode of thinking..

 

Red Flag: What consequences arise from that for the factory and trade- union work of the MLPD?

 

Stefan Engel: The rebellion of the youth in Greece which lasted for weeks, the general strike in Italy against the Berlusconi government with hundreds of thousands of participants in December 2008 or the outburst of mass protests against Putin's tax laws in Russia are, in a sense, early signs of future general new political broad weather conditions with mass strikes and mass demonstrations.

 

For the workers it is necessary that they see through the character of the crisis management of the governments, who have changed their propaganda in saying that they are doing everything in their means to „save jobs“. Under this flag, mass dismissals are implemented, environmental protection is cut back drastically – and the workers are supposed to accept almost all social cutbacks!

 

What the real goal is can be seen in the USA where GM, Ford and Chrysler demanded further 34 billion dollars in state funds in order to go ahead with the restructuring of the US automotive industry and to be able to have their part again in the struggle for the domination of the world market. More than 17 billion dollars now have been promised by the Bush Administration in advance.

 

For this, they demand that the US trade union UAW (United Auto Workers) sacrifices the due payments for the health care funds for the pensioners. The regulation that dismissed workers are guaranteed up to 95 per cent of their wages or salaries is to be abolished. In addition, they demand that UAW agrees to the mass dismissals of thousands of workers and the closure of entire factories and that the contract of 2007 be declared invalid. The wages and social benefits are to be lowered by 30 per cent in one step, which is a general attack upon achieved workers` rights.

 

The workers are supposed to gather behind „their“ company group in the crisis by using chauvinistic slogans and to let themselves be driven into competition with the workers in other countries and companies. Will the workers give in to that? Or will they fight for their class interests? The answer to this question is basic for the development of class struggle!

 

The transition to the workers' offensive on a broad scale, which started in 2004 with the strike at Opel, has come to a halt in the course of 2008. In the meantime we have the contradictory situation that we have the largest number of participants in union disputes in many years with more than 1.5 million, while the number of self-organized strikes, which belong to the most important characteristics of workers' offensive, has decreased considerably. In the wave of warning strikes in the bargaining round of the metal and electrical industry, more than 600,000 blue- and white-collar workers took part – many more than the leaders of the metal workers' union had expected. This showed the high fighting preparedness of the metal workers. For the first time, greater numbers of agency workers consciously took part in the warning strikes and more got organized in the metal workers' union. In the demonstrations and rallies the working-class youth was a clearly increasing asset. The slogan of the MLPD „No sacrifice for speculators“ gained more and more influence in the course of the bargaining round and the spirit of workers' offensive flared up.

 

Confronted with this high fighting morale, increasing demands for a strike ballot and a mass criticism of capitalism, the bargaining round was ended rigorously and hastily and was accompanied by hysterical crisis propaganda on the part of the capitalist federations together with the rightist trade- union leadership.

 

„It's impossible to fight in the crisis“ has become the main slogan of the petty-bourgeois reformist mode of thinking which the workers' movement has to come to grips with. The metal workers' union leadership is even outright demanding that the firms use the instruments of short-time work, time schedule accounts, collective agreements for „job-guarantees“ and firm agreements on amended collective agreements on the basis of the Pforzheim-Agreement „actively“ - all under the slogan of „avoiding dismissals“. The metal workers' union proposes its basic approval of worsening the working conditions and wages of the workers.

 

In the meantime, the rightist trade-union leadership has announced to the public that in the coming years not wage increases or similar things would be in the center, but the „fight against crisis“ instead. The chief of the chemical workers' and miners' union Schmoldt - following an article of the „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ (FAZ) from 24 December 2008 - obediently proposed the readiness for shortening working hours without wage compensation, further wage cuts of about 10 per cent, cuts in Christmas benefits, etc. This policy of class collaboration on the backs of the employed must be rejected.

 

This means to stand up for rejecting short-time work and minus hours, for the struggle for each and every job, against dismissing agency workers and for hiring them in regular contracts and to connect this with the struggle for the 30-hour week with full wage compensation.

 

The present process of clarification is a transitory process. It will lead to a new quality of class consciousness, if we succeed in convincing the workers that „stepping back“ is a blind alley and that it doesn't change the causes of the crises at all. The decisive majority of workers must comprehend that capitalism is an outdated form of society that cannot be socially transformed or reformed away – but which has a real alternative, genuine socialism.

 

Such a transition does not only means that people must be convinced of our arguments, but also demands a certain change in the way of living and view of life. In this process the militant forces and the Marxist-Leninists have to go forward as examples. Especially in the factories, the struggle for a revolutionary perspective demands courage, audaciousness and fearlessness and, at the same time, great skill, sympathetic understanding and patience. The preparation for the inevitably coming class struggles demands more severity and endurance, an unshakable class solidarity. And finally, a secure use of the extensive experience in Marxist-Leninist factory and trade-union work that we have acquired in the 40 years of our party history is necessary. All these demands can only be met in the dialectical interpenetration of scientific socialism and the working-class movement, and by working-class leaders who are able to lead these struggles theoretically and practically.

 

In this situation the decisive consequence is the increased organizing of class-conscious workers in the MLPD and the more rapid development of leaders of the masses for the upcoming class struggles.

 

Red Flag: In the summer the Hamburg Party Congress also called up to intensify the ecological-political work of the MLPD. Wasn't the financial crisis an inopportune time to realize this plan?

 

Stefan Engel: On the contrary! The urgent ecological-political mission of the Hamburg Party Congress has been completely confirmed in the past weeks. I am not only thinking of the more and more dramatic reports about the climate changes which have already begun, like the melting of the polar caps and the continental glaciers. What gives special cause for concern is the fact that the imperialist monopolies and their compliant lackeys in the governments make political capital out of the international financial crisis to give even the totally insufficient present decisions and plans of the imperialist governments for climate protection the chop.

 

The UN climate conference in Posen made the first step to cut back the already insufficient climate protection settlements. In the EU as well as here, the German “climate chancellor” Angela Merkel was one of the main pursuers of longer transitional periods and for the release of the automotive, steel and energy corporations from environmental protection conditions.

 

In October we published the “Climate Protection Program of the MLPD“ in close cooperation with sympathizing scientists. The demand to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions by about 80 percent until 2030 and the proof that the energy supply could be totally changed to renewable energies are in the center. It follows the latest state of scientific findings on what absolutely has to be done just to avoid irreversible damages and catastrophic developments on a worldwide scale.

 

In contrast to e.g. the CDU, the SPD and also the so-called Greens, we are not ready to subordinate these necessary measures to the profit interests of any corporation whatsoever.

 

It is a huge problem that today most of the environmental organizations assume that these monopoly parties will solve the environmental issues and that agreements with the corporations can be achieved with good arguments. So, for example, the MLPD was the only party to mobilize nationwide for the World Climate Day on 6 December together with its youth league Rebell and its children organization, the Red Foxes.

 

We experienced that it was often necessary to build up united action anew and at the grass-roots level. The responsible representatives of the traditional environment and conservation associations mostly are neither willing nor able to organize militant actions together with the people at the moment.

 

We need a new independent environmental movement with the working class as its leading force, which sets its stakes in the internationally organized active resistance against the greed for profit of the monopolies, which is not under the misapprehension that maximization of profits could be reconciled with environmental protection. Only profit counts for the monopolies, and if environmental protection doesn’t pay, it will not occur even if all of humanity could be destroyed.

 

We are determined to make our decisive contribution for building up a broad and internationalist environmental movement above party lines and we will not abandon this issue.

 

Red Flag: At its Hamburg Party Congress the MLPD decided to launch a tactical offensive for genuine socialism in connection with the federal elections. What does this task mean in the face of the present development?

 

Stefan Engel: The offensive for genuine socialism has gained significance in the light of the international financial crisis and the transition to a world economic crisis. In the present situation, nothing is more important than to uncover the capitalist causes of the obvious crisis development of the world economy and the world financial system. People must learn that the problems that are now breaking out are not the prime result of personal misdemeanors in the managers' offices, but are governed by law in this system.

 

Therefore, all attempts to tame capitalism, to impose control mechanisms on financial capital or the bank and industrial managers are only superficial cosmetics. It is just incredible and at the same time acted naivety when the Federal President and former IMF-boss Koehler demanded in his Christmas speech that the capital should serve all. In this situation nothing is more important than to win over the broad masses to stand up for a new society in which mankind will be the focus of attention and not the profit economy of a handful of international monopolies, and that this is really possible.

 

The offensive for genuine socialism, however, must be connected to the present situation. It cannot only be reduced to the election campaign and the propaganda for the MLPD. It has to deal intensively with political education about the unsuitability of the political economics of imperialism and the popular proof that socialism is the only possible societal alternative.

 

At the same time, we have to organize the direct struggle of the masses against shifting the burden of crisis onto their backs.

 

We urgently also have to promote the self-run organizations of the working class and the broad masses in interaction with Marxist-Leninist party building. Finally, we have to overcome the recent stagnation in membership in the MLPD in order to prepare for future class struggles.

 

The main problem is that we should not be guided too much by the ups and downs of the spontaneous movement. So, in view of our various activities, we are already behind with our plans to collect signatures for the election registration. Some comrades have developed quite a justification pattern why they could not collect signatures in their grass roots work – e.g. during the wage struggles. They said this could be misunderstood by the workers, as if the MLPD would "take advantage" of the work in the union. This argumentation is complete nonsense as the course of the pay round was primarily determined politically. The workers, who had started and wanted to continue a real struggle to improve their wage and working conditions with their heated warning strikes and the preparation of the ballot, acted with a political motivation – and so did the employers’ associations and the rightist union leadership, who started to shift the burden of crisis to the backs of the workers and to their income with a foul compromise. In such a situation of an objective politicization of the struggle, a political activity like the preparation of the MLPD to participate in the elections and its strengthening as a real socialist alternative could never be out of place. Such thinking is based on a dangerous trade-union legalism and opportunism which could do serious harm in the present situation.

 

It is of great importance to get to the roots of the matter in such debates. We use the coming general membership meetings and the local branch and county delegates' conferences to prepare our party for the new situation. Their focus is on organizing and to leading the transition to the working-class offensive in the situation of an international financial crisis and a beginning world economic crisis as a new challenge.

 

Red Flag: In 2009, a special emphasis was to be placed on solving the problem of youth work. Given the change in the objective situation, will this plan be adhered to?

 

Stefan Engel: The 8th Party Congress stressed the strategic importance of solving problems in youth work for class struggle and party building. The role of the youth as the practical avant-garde in class struggle is growing in the transition to the stage of an acutely revolutionary situation in class struggle. The youth reacts most sensitively to new social developments.

 

We established that we have already initiated a positive turn in our youth work. But the problems cannot be solved from one day to the next. For years it was neglected to systematically study anew the youth-political line of the MLPD. The Party Congress therefore proposed a criticism/self-criticism campaign and the CC resolved to carry out such a campaign in 2009. That means that we tackle every task – be it the work in factories and trade unions, be it in the offensive for genuine socialism – specifically under the aspect of youth work.

 

In the last two or three months, the youth movement in Germany has revived as well. There was a nationwide school boycott, young people protested with dedication against nuclear-waste-transport in Wendland region. In the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, at least 230,000 young people took to the streets.

 

It is the fundamental task of Rebell as a Marxist-Leninist self-run organization of the masses of the youth and children to organise the rebellion of the youth as an instrument of the party. This is the only way that the rebellion of the youth can be stabilized and become part of the class struggle of the working class and the struggle for socialism.

 

In order to do so, the youth organisation has to fulfill its task as a life school of the proletarian mode of thinking in all aspects among the masses of the youth. This again is only possible, if the MLPD assumes its full responsibility and develops its interrelations with Rebell in all aspects. The main subject of the criticism/self-criticism-campaign is the all-round realisation of this life school as a new and higher quality of Marxist-Leninist youth work. A joint appeal of CC and CCC will orient the organisation towards this task.

 

However, it would be completely wrong to see the root of this problem in real or alleged inadequacies of our party. It is important to understand the youth issue as a fundamental social problem with general impact. A battle over the youth has begun in society as a whole. Will capitalist society succeed in raising the youth to idleness, egoism, rivalry, sexism and so on – in one word: to a petty-bourgeois mode of thinking? Or will the youth become the avant-garde of the society-changing struggle for socialism?

 

The two-day Lenin-Liebknecht-Luxemburg-activities of MLPD and Rebell in Berlin in early January will be the signal for our special youth mobilization in 2009. These deal in particular with the lessons on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the November Revolution in Germany and about spreading the revolutionary perspective among the masses of the youth. In the spring, the preparation of the 14th international Whitsun Youth Meeting will become the focal point.

Red Flag: In November a delegation of the MLPD traveled to the Indian sub-continent. What impressions did you get there?

Stefan Engel: The Indian subcontinent has a special worldwide significance from different points of view – especially for the revolutionary movement. Almost a quarter of the world population lives there. Since January 2007, martial law exists in Bangladesh to tackle the acutely revolutionary situation. Pakistan is one of the first countries which, as direct consequence of the international financial crisis, was driven into state bankruptcy. India is a main focus of the investments of the international monopolies.

 

In the last two years, Nepal doubtlessly has moved into the center of the awareness of the international revolutionary and working-class movement. There we wanted to get our own view of the development. After the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-Maoist) had started an armed guerilla warfare in 1995, it obviously succeeded in mobilizing broad masses, especially the youth, the peasants and the women in the country for the new-democratic revolution on the path to socialism. However, in 2005, it had to realize that by mainly relying on its own forces it could not win the armed struggle, even though it had already installed armed bases and guerilla regions in 75 per cent of the country. It stopped this armed struggle and correctly joined the democratic peoples' movement against the autocratic power structures of the king. On the basis of this broad coalition at the end of 2006, the dictatorship of the king was successfully overthrown. The new-democratic revolution had achieved an important stage in the struggle for the liberation of the Nepalese people. A transitional government was formed and a constitutional assembly was installed.

 

In the elections for the constitutional assembly in April 2008, the seven Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations together won 61 per cent of the votes. These were clear instructions by the broad masses of people for the communists to complete the new-democratic revolution and to continue the process of changing the society.

 

Millions of the 28 million inhabitants of Nepal are organized in one of the mass organizations of the different communist parties. That means that this poor country is at the head of the worldwide tendency to the left and, at the same time, it is facing tremendous challenges.

 

In Nepal an economy that is independent of imperialism must first be built up. Winning the government is not the same thing as gaining political power. The biggest part of the economy is in a pre-industrial stage and agriculture is still mostly limited to self-sufficiency. In the regions which are controlled by the CPN-Maoist, a number of revolutionary achievements to improve the situation have been introduced, for instance in the school and health sector, by building up democratic structures in place of the feudal village chiefs, by distributing farmland to the poor peasants, etc. But also the agrarian revolution has only just started and must be fulfilled.

 

In the talks with the five biggest communist parties it became clear that a key issue is whether you remain satisfied with the achievements of the bourgeois-democratic revolution or whether you advance in the new democratic revolution on the path to socialism.

 

Parliamentarism is doubtlessly a giant step forward for the Nepalese people with its bourgeois-democratic rights and liberties. However - and this we know from our long experience with bourgeois democracy - parliamentarism is a double-edged sword. It condemns the masses to political passivity and transfers the responsibility to a small group of political representatives. In the present situation this is a great danger, because the most important thing is to mobilize the broad masses for the new-democratic revolution. In our opinion, it is therefore of utmost importance to develop und extend all forms of direct democracy which organize the initiative of the broad masses as the decisive force.

 

In India we were especially interested in getting to know how the reorganization of international production has changed the country. You have to realize soberly that in the countryside only little has changed for the mass of the population. The investment activity applies to only 50 special economic areas in which a modern industry with millions of employees is being built up and in which an important part of the international industrial proletariat of the country is concentrated.

 

So the country is split into a broad mass of small and landless peasants and farmworkers who make up 70 to 75 per cent of the population, an urban population in the 21 huge cities and a proletariat of 150 to 200 million, the biggest part of which is working in a very backward industrial basis.

 

We talked with different revolutionary parties and organizations about our impression, that the work in the modern industrial centers is still being underestimated. For instance we visited Gurgaon, the biggest industrial zone of India near Delhi. Such a concentration of modern industrial enterprises probably doesn't exist in any imperialist country except China. In Gurgaon the automotive industry, the electronics industry and the garment industry are operating at the highest technological level. There the methods of exploitation are based mainly on splitting the workforce into (in comparison to Europe) a small part of workers with fixed-term contracts and up to 80 per cent of agency workers, or foreign workers and day-laborers. The latter get only a small percentage, partly only 10 to 30 per cent, of the wages of the permanent workers. Correspondingly, the struggles of these agency or foreign workers are respectively hard. In the big monopoly enterprises of US-American, Japanese or European origin they are not even granted the right to organize in trade unions.

 

In India there is a broad basis of revolutionary parties and organizations which are working on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and the Mao Zedong Thought, but which are extremely split up. This is hindering the progress of revolutionizing the masses and the class struggle of the working class to quite an extent. The main cause of this split is the revisionist degeneration of the parties CPI and CPI-M. However, the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations also have their own responsibility for this division, because they obviously are not succeeding in getting their differences settled by using a proletarian culture of debate based on a fundamental unity. Without overcoming this division there will be no successful revolutionary process in India, even though the potential is gigantic.

 

 

Red Flag: The process for building up an international form of organization of revolutionary parties for the coordination of their activities in class struggle and party building (ICOR) was supposed to begin in the fall. What can you tell us about this?

 

Stefan Engel: I am pleased to say that the process is developing dynamically. Meanwhile the first discussion conferences have taken place in Asia and Europe. Up till now, there are more than 40 revolutionary parties and organizations from all over the world taking part in this initiative. All of them agree: The time has come for a closer union of the revolutionary parties and organizations! The task of coordinating the practical work in party building and class struggle has really developed from a general desire to a burning practical need. Because of the development of the financial crisis and the world economic crisis, it has even become an important task of the day for all revolutionary forces in the world! At these conferences, experiences with international forms of organization of the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement were discussed in a critical and creative manner.

 

For today, everyone agreed that such a union will initially only be able to have a coordinating character – consciously distinguishing it from the Comintern that was organized as a revolutionary world party in a centralistic way from 1919 until 1943. Today, division and historically caused differences between the revolutionary parties are still too great.

 

On the international scale, we are still in a non-revolutionary situation today in which opportunities for a broader union consist. In an acutely revolutionary situation, the yardstick for the unification of the revolutionary work would certainly have to be stricter and more effective structures would have to be found. The ICOR process still has got great potentials. It does not see itself as competitor of existing unions, forums and forms of organization of the Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement, but intends to focus on practical cooperation in particular. In the present situation, the MLPD has directed its main focus on these practical issues and will do everything possible in order to lead the process of ICOR to become a success.

 

Of course, first and foremost, this discussion process takes place on the level of party leaderships. At the same time, all members and functionaries of the MLPD must understand that they must actively carry and support this process through their internationalist work among the rank-and-file. In the end, it is a matter of organizing a new quality of proletarian internationalism as the essential basis for the preparation of the international socialist revolution.

 

 

Red Flag: Considering these comprehensive and diverse tasks, what is the most important main line of party work in the New Year?



Stefan Engel: Our Hamburg Party Congress, which took place in the summer of 2008, gave a correct general orientation for the party’s future tasks in party building and class struggle. Basically, it is exactly the political and economic development that was predicted by the 8th Party Congress that has already begun! Now it is essential to accept the decisive task of the 8th Party Congress to step up the preparation of the international revolution within the course of all these repercussions of imperialism.

We are facing a new tactical starting situation that needs to be understood first of all by each and every comrade as well as each and every leading body. The entire party must prepare itself for the world economic crisis, not at least by carefully and critically and self-critically re-assimilating our ideological-political line and the book “Götterdämmerung – Twilight of the Gods – Over the ‘New World Order’”. That needs to be accompanied by a set of tactical and organizational changes in our work.

We primarily need to understand that the general phase of transition, that we defined at the Hamburg Party Congress in concrete terms, will experience an enormous acceleration through the open outbreak of the world economic crisis. There will be reciprocal intensification of class struggle – both on the part of the monopolies in rule, as well as on the part of the working class. The various contradictions of capitalism will become clearly apparent and we will utilize this situation to accelerate our efforts to win the decisive majority of the working class for socialism and include the broad masses in the struggle against the monopolies and the government. For the latter mentioned, the intensification of the Monday demonstration movement plays a special role.

We foremostly must understand that in the present situation, the philosophical discussion with the masses about the causes of the capitalist crisis development and the necessity to replace ailing Imperialism with the struggle for socialism takes center stage. The crisis-ridden character of capitalism calls its right to exist into question. Economic issues are always societal issues that now predominate in strategy and tactics and in agitation and propaganda.

Here the struggle against the very different variations of opportunism, reformism and revisionism are playing an important role.

Politically we must gear ourselves to the resolute struggle against the shifting of the burdens of the crisis on the workers' shoulders, their families and the broad masses. Above all, we need to prepare ourselves for all possible situations! That does not only apply to economic matters, where we can expect entire corporations to break down and large scale companies to vanish into thin air overnight. Politically we will also be confronted with a less cautiously operating state. We must reckon with the rigorous cracking down on working-class struggles and mass demonstrations, as well as revolutionaries getting into cross-fire of state violence.

In such a situation, the party does not only need to work ideologically, politically and organizationally, but must also strengthen its fighting morale by organizing steadfast solidarity. The working class movement must comprehend and experience that they can rely on the MLPD, and the class-conscious workers must understand that they need to get organized. Our new and present members need to find their moral backing, the place for their ideological-political qualification and individual accompaniment within the community of our organization to cope with the tough class conflicts.

But we should not only see these processes with regard to our immediate work among the rank-and-file in factories and trade unions, in the women’s movement, in the youth movement and in the neighborhoods, but we also need to understand it as a component part of an international process. The world has become smaller and we must develop very close links with the international class conflicts and assume our responsibility for the process of cross-border coordination and revolutionization of class struggle.

The working class can only establish its strategic superiority over the imperialist world system in the struggle for socialism if it organizes this superiority in beyond national borders! This demands international strategy and tactics to unite the class struggles. At the 8th Party Congress we committed ourselves to take over responsibility for the international revolution. The new tactical starting situation challenges us to take outstanding efforts to accelerate the publication of the issues 32 to 34 of our theoretical organ REVOLUTIONÄRER WEG (Revolutionary Way).

When we take the complexity of the challenges into consideration, we must do everything possible to avoid overtaxing our forces. We need to adjust our plans to the new situation and abstain from the one or the other desirable activity in order to have the necessary leeway for unanticipated occurrences. That also demands not to attach the same value to all activities, to differentiate more which organizational units focus on what tasks etc. We will immediately start to change and tighten our planning.

Altogether the MLPD is optimally equipped for this and that is why we can look ahead to the future with a good conscience and optimism.

Red Flag: Thank you very much for this interview.

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