Development of the Political Situation
For the last two years, the world economy has been influenced by one of the worst economic crises capitalism has ever produced. In 2019, the crisis went mostly undercover in the consciousness of the people in Germany, while it was already clearly showing in different countries worldwide and plunged millions into even deeper poverty, destroying their economic existence. As in many countries, in Germany the crisis coincided with the plan of a far-reaching reorganization of the industrial sector and the introduction or the adjustment of production respectively with the help of new technologies. Because of this, the German capitalists already announced a large part of the mass dismissals over the years and were able to use the economic crisis to justify them as well as to delegitimize and stifle protests and resistance against them.
The beginning of the corona pandemic in Europe and Germany in early 2020 has additionally intensified the economic crisis in a massive way and has accelerated its course. It is a factor which immensely pushes the monopolization in many sectors, that have been affected particularly strongly through the pandemic and the corresponding measures by the German government: These include gastronomy, tourism, retail and online trade, tech-companies and the financial sector. Small businesses were worn down between the big monopolies in this competition and the necessary adjustments to the pandemic. Subsequently, there were gigantic takeover battles and monopolies already plagued with economic problems are overthrown and disappear from the market. In the last months, one example for this process was the retail-giant Real whose retail shops and market shares were taken over by EDEKA.
Various countries have to register record high unemployment numbers and losses of their economic output the second year in a row. The year 2021 is also another year of crisis in which the consequences of the economic crisis are expanding further. Should imperialism succeed to keep the world financial system stable despite the enormous expansion of credit, German imperialism could nevertheless enter a phase of temporary, relative stabilization.
In any case the attacks on the working class will continue to increase and will make a determined resistance necessary. The attacks of capital have already categorically questioned or even abolished many of the achievements of the working class in the field of labor law in the last decades. This applies for example to the expansion of allowed maximum working hours, the surveillance of working hours and loading the costs for digitization and home office onto the employees. Similarly, this applies to the general attack of capital in the field of data protection.
After trillions of euros of newly made money were handed out by the central banks to rescue the capitalist monopolies in 2020, with a few months delay the inflation rises noticeably since the beginning of 2021. In the US the inflation is 4% and in Germany it’s supposed to rise that fast in the second semester, too. For the workers, inflation has the same effect on their standard of living – but not on their consciousness – as an direct wage cut.
China seems to continue its triumphant advance relative to other imperialist powers even in the pandemic. China’s very repressive way of dealing with the virus outbreak and its result of quickly regained control shows that corona plays an extremely important role in the imperialist rivalry and that it gave China an advantage, relatively speaking.
Crisis is the form, in which the process of restructuring capital in the whole capitalist world takes place. Today, it marks the triumph of tech-companies under the keyword “digitization”, which has been showing already in the past years, and finally makes them the central monopolies in the inner hierarchy of imperialism.
Germany and in some way all European imperialist powers have the problem that they have to catch up with their rivals China and the US in this regard. They have no monopolies which would be rivals worth mentioning to Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Huawei, China Mobile etc.
The now issued massive, and ultimately with the funds of the working class financed, investment packages also have the role to create such companies with massive state-funded investments – in a very similar way as state intervention lead to the creation of important German electronic and chemical monopolies in the early 20th century. Especially for Germany this is important, because with Wirecard its most promising and in its creation hugely state-supported financial monopoly just failed spectacularly. Germany’s software monopoly SAP makes rather negative headlines in the past years as well and seems to be left behind by American and Chinese monopolies in the development of new software.
These massive economic interventions have been justified differently in the past years of crisis. 2019 revolved entirely about a “Green New Deal” that was supposed to push forward a centrally controlled, state-issued investment campaign in Europe with the wealth created by the working class. Because of the corona pandemic the “reconstruction” after the pandemic has come to the foreground as the justification.
The yellow unions took – acting accordingly to their role – a clear stance of social partnership in the pay rounds of the metal and electronic industry. 2021 they agreed the second year in a row to missing pay rises, wage freezes and dismissals and did nearly nothing against the additional massive attacks by the corona decrees and at the legislative level. The negotiated compromises are rotten compromises, that give companies a free hand. IG Metall for example “successfully fought” for a one time payment instead of a pay rise – but only if the economic situation of the business allows it. In view of the massively increasing inflation, nominal wage freezes, with a running time of up to two and a half years for wage agreements, mean massive wage cuts.
Parallel to the developing economic crisis, the international political situation is characterized by the massively intensifying contradictions between the imperialist countries.
Frequency and intensity of regional wars with the support of imperialist powers and direct proxy wars between imperialist powers are increasing. The imperialist forces are more and more directly involved and the first – for now locally limited – direct military confrontations take place. Also, different imperialist powers which are normally assigned to the same geopolitical block, for example to the European Union or NATO, partially find themselves on different sides of the trenches (for example Italy and France in Libya). This especially shows the transience and instability of imperialist alliances of convenience. The disintegration or falling apart of the European Union or NATO seem to be only a question of time today. With Great Britain one big player already left the EU and painfully experiences the economic consequences of this step.
It is neither possible to say for sure when the intensifying imperialist contradictions will lead to the disintegration of the current imperialist alliances nor when they will lead to a third world war. But what is possible to determine with facts and the principles of Marxist-Leninist theory in this question is the following:
- The geopolitics of the imperialist powers aim openly at the preparation of the third world war and the improvement of each their own starting positions in this war respectively.
- Because the distance between the US and China as the next biggest imperialist power steadily keeps getting smaller, there is only a limited time frame, in which the USA can hope to keep its supremacy by military means if necessary. China and its allies will demand a change of the international order because of the new balance of power as well– also with military means if necessary.
- Wars have always played an important role for overcoming capitalist crises because they are a concrete form of massive destruction of capital and at the same time serve to expand markets that have become too tight for the imperialists at the expense of their competition.
- The corona pandemic is also a direct geostrategic question. Imperialist powers who are the first to get the pandemic under control will get strategic advantages. At the time, China seems to be winning this race and because of that to further expand their economic force, especially to the disadvantage of the US.
No matter when it will come to bigger military conflicts between the imperialist superpowers, before them the main effect of the geopolitical escalation will be that the German monopoly-bourgeoisie and its state won’t be able to guarantee the life the working class is used to anymore. The “refugee crisis” 2015 and the economic crisis as well as the corona pandemic 2020/2021 are examples for how the intensifying contradictions of imperialism impact the political and social circumstances in Germany and get a special dynamic going.
The past years haven’t only been marked by the intensification of contradictions between imperialists, but also by numerous protest movements of international importance. The year 2019 was a year of resurgence for the climate movement all over the world. The struggles of women and the role of women in other social movements have come to the foreground as well (especially in countries like Chile, Sudan and Turkey). Coming from the US, the Black Lives Matter movement initiated in many countries protests against racism, even though these were oftentimes under a bourgeois-democratic leadership.
In the last years, we could see bigger and smaller revolts and mass movements one after another in different countries, that fought against neocolonialism, forced reforms by the IWF, WTO and the World Bank and the developing capitalist crisis. Especially highlighted should be that in some countries (e.g. Lebanon, Chile, Sudan) the whole current political system was questioned. The yellow vests protests in France in the winter of 2018/2019 had already shown that revolt in the imperialist center comes back onto the political agenda.
Yet, in all protests and revolts a clear socialist perspective was missing and communists couldn’t play a leading role in each of these movements.
The pandemic has stopped this tendency for the time being only in some – mainly imperialist – countries, in other countries like Iran, Iraq and Bolivia, to only name a few, the masses have not been stopped by the pandemic. Quite the opposite: The effects of the pandemic have often lead to even stronger protests and revolts.
Especially in 2020 it became clear that the seemingly relative calmness of class struggle in Germany is deceiving. The fact that resistance, from protests to smaller spontaneous struggles and conflicts, is arising again and again, against certain corona-measures and accompanying state repression as well as against economic cuts like dismissals in the course of the economic crisis, is a big difference to the last heavy economic crises in this country.
Many social contradictions find resonance at least in social movements that flare up for a short amount of time, like Fridays for Future, Fridays against Old-Age Poverty, Black Lives Matter or the protests against the state’s corona-measures. Most of these movements are clearly under bourgeois leadership and their demands are completely restricted to the bourgeois-capitalist system.
These movements were seen and treated partly as right-wing and partly as left-wing influenced movements by the political resistance movement. But actually all of them were based on real attacks and/or problems of workers, which were for that reason partially picked up more by fascists and partially picked up more by bourgeois democrats.
Still, they show that the contradictions in Germany are intensifying as well and that the possibility to keep big parts of the German working class complacent through paying them parts of the extra-profits of German imperialism becomes smaller. These social contradictions are the objective foundation for a wide social protest movement, although they have not yet produced it in reality.
This is also true especially for fascist attacks, which are increasing in intensity and frequency, scandals about activities of fascists in the state as well as for the unfolding economic crisis and its accompanying more and more open attacks on the living standard of the working class in Germany.
That these social movements and goal-oriented class struggles from the bottom are missing has two central causes: the relative strength of right-wing social democrats and their politically affiliated yellow unions and the weakness of the revolutionary and communist workers movement.
Especially during the economic crisis and pandemic these two factors revealed themselves openly. In the second half of 2019 at the latest, the economic crisis hit Germany with full force. For the beginning of 2020 extensive mass dismissals and plant closures were then planned; at the same time important wage agreements expired, like for the civil service, the metal and electronic industry and other central economic sectors. All in all, it is the moment to go into political offense and to enforce the interests of the working class with the help of strikes and demonstrations.
But the yellow DGB-unions did the exact opposite. They jumped onto the bandwagon of the state propaganda, that we are in a “unique historic situation” in which we “all sit in the same boat”. Now, a “national exertion” would be needed to survive the economic crisis and pandemic. In the metal and electronic industry, the capitalists were gifted nominal wage freezes and did not even have to adjust the wages to the inflation. For the first time in many years, no activities, protests and mobilization at workplaces were done by the big unions, in the exact year, in which there were the greatest attacks on the working class’ interests and rights by the ruling class in decades.
Additionally, in the course of the corona pandemic there were the biggest attacks and restrictions on our fundamental rights in decades. But not only the yellow unions but big parts of the Political Resistance Movement bend down without putting up a fight against the government’s attacks and for months fell into a shock-induced paralysis. Some of them still haven’t recovered yet, continue to join the canon of the government’s propaganda and argue to give up their own fundamental rights. Some people may instinctively remember the “Burgfriedenspolitik”, the political policy of party truce the Social Democratic Party of Germany agreed to during World War I.
This is not a coincidence. Inevitably, reformist groups get torn between counter-revolution and the revolutionary side in times of intense crises. It is the same today with the Political Resistance Movement and the radical left in Germany respectively. In the future, they will split into a pro-imperialist wing and a revolutionary wing, where centrist groups will sway between them. To some extent this development could already be seen with the #zero-covid campagne in the beginning of 2021, in which many reformist groups outright sided with capital.
To this day it has not been successful to build a necessary working class movement against the restriction of fundamental rights and the passing on of the crisis’ load onto our shoulders. This is especially severe, because the bourgeoisie in this country by no means stopped making politics in their interest. On the contrary, the crisis and pandemic are a welcome opportunity to further strategic projects – explicitly independent from the development of the corona pandemic. This, among other things, includes the undermining of personal rights and the extension of power for intelligence services and the police.
In the past years, especially during the economic crisis and corona pandemic, the necessity for a strong workers’ movement, that only orientates itself towards its interests and refuses any policy of tailing the yellow unions and the right social democrats, hasn’t shown itself so clearly for a long time.
It is therefore our most pressing task to contribute to the construction of this movement and its communist vanguard, in the form of the Communist Party’s reconstruction in Germany.