On July 31, a new international conference of the ISL was held to discuss the challenges and tasks that revolutionaries face in today’s world and the one to come after the pandemic. The conference was attended by comrades from revolutionary organizations from dozens of countries on all five continents, including new participants from organizations from countries such as Kenya, Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Deliberations were held with translations in Spanish, English, French, Arabic, Turkish, Russian and Portuguese. We share the statement that was voted at the end of the event:
Almost a year and a half have passed since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. While some governments of the capitalist powers rush to declare victory over the virus, a large part of humanity still suffers its consequences and new variants remain a threat. The worldwide vaccination campaign has been a new demonstration that capitalism is not capable of solving the most basic needs of humanity. Although 2021 began with the news that several vaccines had successfully passed clinical tests, 8 months later the vast majority of humanity still does not have access to them. Rich countries have monopolized an important part of production, and the pharmaceutical companies that own their patents reserve the exclusive “right” to produce and distribute their product to ensure the highest possible profit, although they do not have the capacity to provide the necessary vaccines in the appropriate time. All this shows that the reason why the pandemic continues to unfold is that the capitalist system privileges profits over the health and lives of millions, going so far as to hinder the mass vaccination necessary to stop the Covid-19 pandemic.
The world today and the one that may emerge in the post-pandemic scenario is far from offering guarantees of stability. On the one hand, the cycle of rebellions that began in 2019 reasserts itself after a relative pause. From the streets of Colombia to the resistance to the coup in Myanmar, passing through Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Iran, Palestine, so far 2021 has seen a rise in the class struggle worldwide. The rupture with the regimes has even had expressions in the electoral field in countries such as Peru and Chile, where a turn to the left was also expressed, and France, where an abstentionist wave shook the foundations of the Fifth Republic. On the other hand, the world economy has not managed to recover its pre-pandemic level, much less solve its structural limits that were strongly expressed since the 2008 crisis. All this despite the rebound produced by the reopening and the injection of billions of dollars by the states. To this picture we must add the growing inter-imperialist tensions that, with the US and China as protagonists, add a destabilizing factor to the world order.
In this framework, we revolutionaries have enormous opportunities and also great challenges. The rise of the masses questions the hegemonic leaderships of the previous period and poses the struggle for socialist hegemony as a fundamental task. In this sense, we face the challenge of defeating the reformist sectors that, in their different variants, direct the energy of the rebellions towards the institutional channels of the bourgeoisie. Also to the sectarians, who hide their abstentionism under revolutionary rhetoric. To achieve this, we must advance in building revolutionary organizations, and an international one based on solid founding principles and simultaneously open to the confluence of different revolutionary traditions.
A world in rebellion
Before the pandemic began, a cycle of ascent in the class struggle had begun to develop, which in many cases took sharp forms and turned into true rebellions. Already towards the end of 2018, the yellow vest protests in France began to indicate this change, and in 2019 countries such as Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, France, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Sudan, experienced moments of intense class struggle. In 2020 the pandemic represented a relative pause in the escalating struggles. However, there was the historic anti-racist rebellion in the US, which shook the foundations of imperialism and generated a wave of protests and sympathy at the international level. In Lebanon, protests by workers and youth overthrew the government, and in Thailand there was a major movement against the regime that, although it shook the system, did not achieve its objectives. In Chile the rise continued, in Peru the mobilization overthrew two governments in one week and hit the Fujimorista regime. In Belarus, despite the failure to overthrow the government of the dictator Lukashenko, an unprecedented process of popular mobilization developed not seen since the 1990s. The Sahrawi people, with their youth at the forefront, rose again against the Moroccan occupation.
In this framework, at our last International Conference, in December 2020, we stated that “we are entering a period in which the class struggle will intensify.” Today we can say that this forecast has been confirmed. In the course of this year, a series of rebellions have developed that, beyond their limits and contradictions, show a general trend towards the erosion of governments and regimes. They are also evidence of a volatile situation in which an austerity measure, an act of repression, or another “spark” can unleash important processes of mobilization and social outbursts. A clear example of this is Colombia, where the Duque government’s tax reform project encountered resistance that quickly turned into rebellion.
In Latin America, the appearance of Colombia and Chile at the forefront of the rise is not a minor question. During the revolutionary rise that shook the continent in the first decade of the millennium, they were the two main bastions of reaction, with their regimes and the neoliberal model intact, propagandized by imperialism as examples to follow. The uprising of their peoples and the decline of those regimes mark a new moment in the region and a monumental blow to the reactionary right-wing that had come to power in several countries in the past decade. This can be seen in Brazil, where the mobilization to get rid of Bolsonaro has begun and it was seen in the rise that shook Paraguay months ago. The central dynamic of the new moment we are going through in Latin America is the exhaustion of the mass movement with the status quo, a break with the hegemonic political leaderships of the last period, and the willingness to take to the streets to confront and destroy them.
The intensification of the class struggle is not confined to Latin America. In June the reactionary regime of the Mullahs in Iran was rocked by a wave of strikes in the strategic oil sector that involved thousands of workers in 60 companies in 8 provinces. In Myanmar, the youth, the working class and the oppressed nationalities resisted for months against the coup, facing brutal repression. The peasantry of India staged huge protests against the right- wing government of Modi. The Zionist offensive to achieve ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem met with massive resistance from the Palestinian people, which resounded in different parts of the world, with immense solidarity actions with the Palestinian people in London, Paris, the United States, etc. The struggle of the Colombian people also unleashed a wave of international solidarity with important actions in dozens of cities around the world. The recent social outbreak in South Africa, beyond its contradictions, demonstrates the accumulated exhaustion in the most unequal country in the world.
The erosion of governments and regimes hits all political projects, whether they are of the openly bourgeois and pro-imperialist right, such as the cases of Colombia and Chile, or of bureaucratic sectors, masked under “left” or “anti-imperialists” speeches and aligned with China or Russia. The crisis of the Ortega government in Nicaragua or of Maduro in Venezuela are proof of this.
You may be interested in: ISL Statement on Cuba
The economic crisis exacerbated by the pandemic feeds the objective conditions for the development of this rise in the class struggle. Global inequality has grown during the pandemic. Today 1% of the population has 45% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 3 billion have no wealth, once their debts have been discounted. In the conjuncture, the governments of the imperialist powers show optimistic forecasts, based on the combination of the effect of the end of most of the restrictions linked to the pandemic, added to the enormous injection of dollars by the states. In effect, these elements are generating a rebound effect in the world economy. However, this has a lot of mirage if we broaden the perspective. The world economy was already headed for a recession before the pandemic due to low productive investment linked to the fall in the rate of profit. Starting with the 2008 crisis, the enormous money transfers from the states to the capitalists created the conditions for the development of an immense speculative bubble. Today we see a similar pattern. As the conditions that produce the low profitability of investments have not been reversed (through the destruction of installed capacity and/or the elimination of companies with low/zero real profitability or “zombies”), the injection of money towards the capitalists can make the speculative bubble grow or create the conditions for an increase in inflation with low growth. All this means that, beyond the conjunctural rebound, the conditions of structural crisis that can generate episodes of deep crises remain.
Challenges and debates
All of the above shows that the general dynamics of the world political situation is marked by a strong polarization in which the rise in the struggles of the mass movement begin to prevail, although with regional inequalities. This general hypothesis about the “post-pandemic” political moment has been the subject of debate. There are those who, taking partial elements of reality, see a strengthening of the right and of “fascism”. The political consequence of this analysis is the impulse of variants of “democratic fronts”, such as the one that led part of the left in the United States to support Biden, or that today rallies part of the Brazilian left behind the PT. It is essential to evaluate the elements that make up the picture of the world situation in their real dimension. Undoubtedly, the growing polarization of the last decade has generated right and even extreme-right phenomena, which at the level of a country can be particularly strong (as in Hungary with Orbán). As the systemic crisis of capitalism and the legitimacy crisis of the regimes worsen, these phenomena will continue to occur and are part of the political scene. But they are not the only element of reality, nor do they mark its general dynamics.
The fact that we affirm that the general dynamic is towards the intensification of the class struggle does not mean that we stop pointing out the difficulties and contradictions that are expressed in reality. There is an uneven development of the ascent, which is expressed at different rates in different parts of the world. Even where the rise has its strongest expressions and rebellions do occur, not all of them lead to resounding triumphs, or they only achieve partial objectives. In many cases, governments do not fall, even when austerity plans are stopped, because the leaderships manage to channel discontent towards institutional, electoral channels. But we have seen that the mobilization achieves changes in the regimes, even giving mortal blows to some of the most reactionary ones, such as that created by Pinochet in Chile.
A key element to understand why this happens has to do with the changes that have taken place in the world in recent decades and how these have impacted on the political leadership of the mass movement. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR, one of the main worldwide counterrevolutionary apparatuses, Stalinism, was extremely weakened, albeit the great contradiction generated by the restoration of capitalism and the confusion in the consciousness of the mass movement that this produced. Along with imperialism, Stalinism had operated to contain and derail the postwar revolutionary processes. The presence of this apparatus allowed reformist or petty bourgeois leaderships to advance a little beyond their plans to manage to contain the energy of the masses, because the bureaucracy acted as reinsurance for this containment. But today, in the absence of Stalinism, the reformist or petty-bourgeois leaderships are terrified of the mass movement and there are no apparatuses to contain it. For this reason, instead of moving forward, they prefer to turn to the right. We have seen this clearly in cases like Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain or the Broad Front in Chile. At this stage, processes like the Cuban revolution taking place are not on the table, that is, processes that advance towards overthrowing governments, confronting imperialism and expropriating the bourgeoisie without the leadership of a revolutionary party.
Another important debate is about class consciousness and the working class. In the processes of struggle soviets do not arise, but instead very weak organisms; and the working class is an actor but not a hegemonic one. This is due to the problem of leadership. And consciousness does not advance with the struggle alone: it opens minds and generates advances, but in order to consolidate and reach real advances, revolutionary organization is needed.
All this reaffirms the crucial importance of the most subjective of all factors, the construction of a revolutionary party with mass influence at the national level. There are still no revolutionary socialist parties with the influence, accumulation and position necessary to lead the rebellions and revolutions that break out, lead them to definitive victories over capital and establish governments of the workers and the poor people. This grants the bourgeoisie, labor bureaucracies, reformism and social democracy room for maneuver to prevent the old from being destroyed and the new from growing. In Chile, the Broad Front forged a pact with the government to support Piñera when the people demanded his resignation en masse and the CP did its part trying to stop the mobilization; and now they are trying to prevent the Constituent Assembly from exceeding the limits of bourgeois democracy. In Colombia, it is the bureaucracy of the National Strike Committee that has been supporting Duque and trying to divert the process towards a negotiation with the government, while social democratic variants work to channel everything towards an electoral process that still appears far away. What none of these treacherous and reformist leaderships can do is turn back time and they will have to live with a new situation that, in the midst of a great polarization, will tend to deepen and trigger recurrent rebellions.
The masses have the ability to destroy the regimes that oppress them with their own spontaneous revolutionary force. But their creative capacity, to replace these regimes with new structures and build a new society, is limited to the political organizations that they have at their head. To take the revolutionary mobilization to the end, liquidate the bourgeois regimes, dismantle the capitalist state, impose workers’ governments and build socialism, a revolutionary leadership is needed.
In this framework, the struggle of the revolutionaries to influence sectors of the masses is an essential task. We must fight against the reformist, possibilist, pro-capitalist tendencies that in many cases are the predominant forces in the leadership of the working class and mass movement. The last decade shows plenty of examples of these sectors’ actions. From Syriza in Greece to Sanders in the US, they have directed the energy of the rebellions towards institutional channels, in some cases generating a strong subsequent demoralization. We are currently seeing a similar process unfolding in Brazil, where sectors of the PSOL are betting on a front with the PT, which, in turn, seeks an agreement with bourgeois parties in the name of the supposed fight against fascism.
As we have pointed out above, the tensions arising from a growing inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China will continue to be an important aspect of the world situation. This opens a key debate with reformist sectors that see a “progressive camp” and tend to align themselves with China and its allies in the name of “anti-imperialism.” This campist policy leads them to condemn rebellions led by the masses in countries that appear as rivals to the United States. Thus, they condemn the genuine struggles carried out by sectors of the working class or the youth in Iran, Nicaragua, Hong Kong or Venezuela as instruments of imperialism, and they side with the defense of authoritarian or dictatorial regimes. These governments have applied austerity policies and unloaded the crisis on the working class and the poor, just like openly pro-imperialist and capitalist governments have done. Revolutionaries must reject campist politics, and firmly stand on the side of the people’s rebellions and genuine struggles, at the same time rejecting any interference by US imperialism and fighting against the right-wing leaderships that opportunistically try to take advantage of the people’s demands.
Building a revolutionary pole
An important aspect of the situation is that, although the reformist leaderships act and in many cases manage to divert processes of struggle, they do so at the cost of heavily eroding their legitimacy. This has been the case of the nationalist, petty-bourgeois leaderships, who mounted the rise in Latin America in the previous period, such as Maduro in Venezuela, or Evo Morales in Bolivia. It is also the case of the “new” expressions that emerged in Europe like Podemos and Syriza. And it is happening again now in the context of the most critical processes of the present like the center-left in Colombia and Chile. This opens an opportunity for revolutionaries, if we achieve a correct policy.
To carry out the struggle for the hegemony of the revolutionaries, it is essential to advance in strengthening a pole at the international level. We cannot overcome the problem of revolutionary leadership from the narrow margins of a national organization. International exchange and debate between revolutionaries and common intervention in reality, are essential to building solid revolutionary organizations in each country. In this sense, we return to the best of the revolutionary Marxist tradition, which always privileged the construction of revolutionary organizations and an international organization. This is fundamental for the task of joining with the new vanguard that emerges in the heat of the rebellions. There is a “front line” of young people who play a leading role in the processes, who come from different political traditions or have recently become radicalized in the context of the struggle. To bring them to this project, it is essential for them to see that they can also be protagonists here.
Since the postwar period, there have been different attempts to advance in this sense, retaking the legacy of the Fourth International, but all have failed. Dispersion was accentuated. Some groups fell into national-Trotskyism. Others took refuge in a model of construction in which a party that had achieved certain accumulation of cadres founded a current and gathered smaller groups in other countries under its leadership. The intrinsic weakness of these models led to political and methodological errors of different kinds, to partial elaborations, to dogmatism, to sectarian or opportunistic deviations, and bureaucratic methods increased. Past crises and ruptures, as well as those that we are witnessing in different organizations more recently are related to all this. The postwar crisis of Trotskyism led to the formation of defensive groupings, international tendencies around a more developed party. But turning that necessity into a method is a major mistake.
Unfortunately, no international current referenced in Trotskyism was able to pass the test to which they were subjected in the new stage that began with the fall of the Soviet Union and the turbulent years that have followed it up to the present; none became a dynamic pole of attraction for the vanguard. We humbly propose to begin to reverse this dynamic. That is why we defend an international model of construction that is completely different from the existing ones.
We need a strong international organization, one that debates and elaborates collectively. The contribution of different perspectives is essential to building a scientific analysis of reality. Only with collective elaboration can we effectively intervene to transform it. The basis for this is a common understanding of the tasks of the moment, a clear program that takes up the fundamental teachings of revolutionary socialism and a strategic delimitation in the defense of the socialist revolution and the Leninist party. Beyond points there are nuances and debates. For this reason, it is also necessary to give ourselves a method of functioning that allows these discussions to unfold democratically within the framework of common intervention. We hope that the Congress of the ISL, to be held soon, will be a fundamental step in this regard.
There are various revolutionary traditions in the world and concrete experiences from very dissimilar regions of the world are also reflected. For this reason, in certain debates, nuances and differences will be expressed that, far from being a problem, will enrich political elaboration. We consider it a triumph and a necessity in order to reverse the crisis of leadership that the working class carries that organizations that have marched separately for a long time are able to coexist in the same international, and we intend to work to bring together most revolutionary forces under the same banners. Currently, in fact, there are different views on some issues within the ISL. We have nuances around the concepts and definitions that we use to analyze the political situation, which reflects that we come from different traditions that have developed theoretical definitions separately. The same is true of the characterization of some processes. We bet that common activity over time will allow us to build a new tradition and the necessary confidence to achieve a new, superior and revolutionary theoretical, political and methodological synthesis.
We do not understand the construction of an international on the basis of single thought or bureaucratic centralism. We defend the method of Democratic Centralism, because together with a structure of professional militants and hierarchical organisms, it is essential to build revolutionary parties and challenge the leadership of the workers and the people from the bureaucracy and reformism. In building the international it is fundamental to prioritize the democratic pole over centralism because political elaboration has to be carried out respecting the different national realities, traditions and leaderships.
The crisis we are experiencing poses enormous opportunities and challenges. The struggles of the working class and the peoples will mark the dynamic of the period that we are heading into. With them will come a process of radicalization and turn to the left that may open the prospect of building important revolutionary organizations. However, the existence of favorable conditions for this task does not guarantee its success. That depends on our ability to respond appropriately, from analysis to politics and tactics. The magnitude and extent of the process of radicalization that we are entering is far greater than the capacity of the currently existing international groupings to respond. That is why it is essential to build an organization that is open to the confluence of revolutionary socialist organizations that come from different traditions. This is the challenge that we propose to face.
- In support of the rebellions that sweep the world. Internationalist and militant solidarity with the peoples in struggle, and against the repression of the states.
- Independence from all governments, whether they are openly bourgeois and pro-imperialist, or they are bureaucratic and present themselves as anti-imperialist. Rejection of campism.
- Being part of the rebellions, we fight to develop the democratic organizations of the working class and the mobilized people, so that they are the ones who decide the course of the struggles and not the labor bureaucracies and reformist leaderships.
- Against the attempts to harness the rebellions through the institutional and electoral path, in certain countries we raise the slogan of Constituent Assembly for the people to democratically decide how to reorganize the country on new bases, as a tool to deepen the mobilization and unmask the treacherous leaderships.
- Against reformist perspectives, we raise the need to break with capitalism in order to solve the fundamental life problems of the majority. We fight for a model of socialism without bureaucracy in which the working class governs through its organizations.
- To advance in this perspective, we support the need to unite revolutionaries to build large revolutionary socialist organizations that can challenge reformists for hegemony and vie for power.