[Video] Alan Woods on world perspectives: clear the decks for communism!

The world has reached a turning point: now is the time of revolutions and counter-revolutions. It has never been more important for Marxists to understand the economic and social processes happening all around us. We publish here the transcript and video of a talk given by Alan Woods at the recent World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). Alan gives a detailed account of the current world situation, from the war in Ukraine to the explosive situation in West Africa. Ultimately, what is clear is that there is no country anywhere in the world where the capitalists are safe from class struggle. If you agree, and you want to join the fight for communism, then join the IMT today!

Any self-respecting mariner knows that in order to sail a ship you need a map and a compass. Without that you’d get lost, and without a clear perspective, a revolutionary international also can get lost. So we make no apologies for always beginning with perspectives. We try to understand the general tendencies that are taking place on a world scale, because upon that question will depend the correctness of our strategy and tactics.

Now having said that, I hasten to add, there is nothing magical about perspectives. I sometimes get the impression that some comrades go around with their noses buried in the perspectives document, as if the perspectives were the answer to all their prayers. If you walk around like that all day, you will not see what is happening! All the perspectives document is, or can be, is a working hypothesis, that’s all. Based upon all the available information. We try to establish the fundamental, general tendencies, put it that way. But the perspectives must be constantly compared to what is actually happening. They must be constantly updated, modified, changed, if necessary, thrown into the wastepaper basket and you start again – no problem! Trotsky’s perspectives of 1938 were falsified by history; that wasn’t a problem. There was nothing wrong with Trotsky’s method, but events can turn out differently, that’s all.

The chair, Rob, stated what is obvious to anybody. Capitalism is in a deep crisis. That’s very clear. Capitalism is in a deep crisis that's clear isn't it? Very clear to a blind man. Yes, but that's not the point. If you think about it, the question that Marxists must answer is not: why is there a crisis in capitalism? That's not the question. The question that must be answered for the last 150 years is: why is capital not always in a crisis?

Marx explained very clearly in the three volumes of Capital. If you ask me: does capitalism have the means of overcoming a crisis or avoiding a crisis? I answer: yes it has! There are several ways in which capitalism can either avoid a crisis of overproduction, or lessen its effects. One of these instruments, which are well known, is an expansion of credit, by which you expand the market. You expand demand and therefore you can, for a time, avoid a crisis of overproduction.

But sadly there's a problem with this. Now I think there must be many students present, and if I remember, it was a long time ago in my life, but I remember when I was a student; you know young and handsome and thin like you guys. You laugh but it is true! I have photographs! But one of the great pleasures of student life is spending other people's money – you know, spending money which you do not have! You borrow, you get credit! It's very nice – until the sad day comes when even the thickest student begins to realise: ‘good God I've got to pay this back, with interest!’ That is precisely what exists now.

Economic convulsions

Speculation bubble Image Socialist AppealThis unprecedented explosion of credit in the last period has now become transformed into its opposite / Image: Socialist Appeal

In the last period, the bourgeois, it’s incredible, the stupidity of the bourgeois economists and the strategists is really something to behold. They really believed this nonsense: ‘look there's no inflation, there's low interest rates, we can borrow as much as we like, spend as much as we like!’ And this they seriously argued was going to go on forever and ever! But as every student knows, sadly, the situation does not last forever. And now the bourgeoisie is learning dialectics the hard way. They didn't believe in dialectics, they’re empiricists you know. Dialectics tells us that, sooner or later, everything changes into its opposite. And that's the problem they face now. That is the peculiarity of this crisis, that makes it different from other crises. It’s not the same, it's very different. Because they can't get out of this crisis. Because all of the factors, which made for growth in the last period, growth of the world economy, have now turned into their opposite. We dealt with this in the perspectives document, I won’t repeat what we said there.

This unprecedented explosion of credit in the last period has now become transformed into its opposite: into an unprecedented level of debt. Personal debt, company debt, and state government debt have reached absolutely staggering levels. I won't bore you with a lot of statistics, we don't have time for that, but it's easy to find the statistics if you wish. But the total global debt at the present time, you might like to write this down, which includes state, company and household debt, has reached the staggering level of three hundred trillion dollars. That is to say, three hundred million million dollars, which is 349 percent, nearly 350 percent of gross domestic product. And this translates, this figure is interesting, into an average debt of 35,500 dollars for every man, woman and child on the planet. These figures are staggering, unprecedented in history, and they cannot be sustained. That's the problem that they face. Government debt is the same. From 2007 to 2022, government debt as a percentage of GDP grew by 76 percent, that's quite a lot, to a total of 102 percent. Now that figure varies, in different countries you’ve got different levels of government debt. Some are higher, some are lower.

Here in Italy it's a staggering 145, so Italy's leading the world is something at least! They’re up to here in debt! These figures, if you've got an ounce of sense, these figures are very eloquent. What they tell me is very simple. By the way this has got to do with the reformists and the Keynesians, who are the main suppliers of ideological nonsense to the reformists, who used to argue, I don't think they argue anymore, but they used to argue, if there's a problem, ask the government for more money! More money for pensions, more money for health, more money for education. Yeah, very nice. Look at the figures! The state has not got any money. The state hasn’t got a bean. The state has got debts. And far from giving more reforms for health and pensions and education and nice things like that, the only road open to them now, the only road, is to cut, and cut, and cut to the bone!

That's a fact. And facts are stubborn things, although the stupid reformists and the stupid left reformists, they cling to this nonsense about state aid. No, that's not the future at all. And certain things flow from this. By the way, this is not the only problem they faced. But to use an analogy, some comrades thought that it was not appropriate to use this analogy, I think it is very appropriate. It's like a drug addict! You see the bourgeoisie became hooked, like a junkie, they became hooked on cheap credit from the banks. Yeah, the trouble with that is the same as with a junkie, the problem is when you have to cut the drug off, stop taking the drug. That leads to terrible convulsions, and terrible pain. That's a precise analogy to the present situation.

The bankers have already said: ‘no, no, no – no more cheap credit, those days are finished!’ Starting with the US Federal Reserve. The bankers have been aggressively increasing the rate of interest, which they claim is to fight inflation. Now, I might not be very bright, you know, perhaps I don't understand the English language, but to my simple mind I do not see any way in which increasing the rate of interest can reduce inflation. On the contrary, the immediate effect of increasing the interest rates is to increase prices! The businesses will pass it on to the consumer at higher prices, of course.

So you see, these bourgeois economists are particularly stupid people, particularly stupid. If you want to understand economics, throw your textbooks away. Any students of economics here? Put your hand up. They’re too afraid to put their hands up! They’re too afraid, I’m not surprised! They’re too ashamed, I’m not surprised! It’s nonsense! These economists, it amuses me, they seem to spend half their life pouring over the statistics, the price statistics, saying: ‘look, inflation’s coming down, finally!’ It reminds me of the old priests or astrologers of the ancient world, studying the entrails of dead animals to try to predict the future. You may laugh, but it’s just about as effective as what these people are doing. And considerably more entertaining, except for the dead animals that is.

The fact of the matter is the economists haven’t got the faintest idea of what causes inflation. They argue all the time: ‘what causes inflation?’ They don’t know! They can’t agree among themselves, and to use a medical analogy, if a doctor does not have a correct diagnosis of the disease, you certainly will never find a cure for it. So the Fed increases the rate of interest, and all the other central banks in Europe follow them, they all increase, all follow suit, follow the lead of American imperialism, and that has got consequences.

The cutting off of credit, and other factors, I am going to deal with the other factor, the more important factor, Marx explained in the third volume of Capital, one of the factors by which the bourgeoisie can for example counteract the falling rate of profit… By the way, these idiots who call themselves Marxists, they all say, ‘oh! The falling rate of profit! The falling rate of profit!’ All the time. I ask these idiots: where is the falling rate of profit, for Christ’s sake! The profits are booming, in the middle of a crisis, the profits are booming, particularly the profits of banks are booming. And yet there’s a crisis, a crisis of the banks. As in the collapse of Silicon Valley [Bank] and other small banks in the States. That was a warning signal. The red light was beginning to flash. And then they say, ‘oh well it’s only small banks, only weak banks, only in America.’ Really? That’s true enough. What about Credit Suisse? My geography isn’t very good but I don’t think Switzerland is in America?

I appeal to the Swiss comrades: are you in America? “Not yet,” they say! Not yet! But Britain is in America already so there you are! They don’t admit it, but it's a fact. Independence… Brexit.. oh my God! Anyway, Credit Suisse is a big bank, an important bank, one of the biggest banks in Switzerland. With a worldwide reach. That was in crisis. That's a warning signal. By the way, you probably don't notice this, there is unemployment now even in the banking sector in America. Thousands of thousands of bank workers have been sacked, including high up management. Banks like Morgan Stanley and others.

So there's this crisis, but the main factor by which the bourgeois can attenuate the falling rate of profit, as Marx explained, is by an expansion of world trade. One of the contradictions of capitalism is that the national market is too small, it's too limited to contain the means of production. And for the last 30 years, three decades or more, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the entry of Russia and China and India also into the world market, there was an enormous increase in world trade: opening up new markets, new fields of investment, China played an important role in that, I'll deal with China in a moment. And that was the main thing which kept them going, it acted like oxygen to the system. But now that also has reached its limits, and is turned into its opposite.

Nobody speaks about, no serious person speaks about globalisation anymore, and the world economy is disintegrating into a series of rival nations and blocs, creating new antagonisms. Incidentally you see this is serious, very serious, it was actually protectionism that was the main cause of the great depression of the 1930s, and protectionism is now the norm, they’re growing. Like in America, you heard the slogan? ‘America First!’ That means everybody else: last!

It is not just Trump that has that slogan, they all have that slogan actually: America First. ‘Make America Great Again’, he says: at the expense of the rest of the world of course! That's how they intend to solve their problems. And certain things flow from that also, as we shall see. You already have the elements of a trade war between the USA and China, and they see China now as the main threat, the main global threat to the interests of American imperialism is growing Chinese imperialism, that's what it is, good heavens above. China fulfils every single one of Lenin's criteria for imperialism, every single one! And China and Russia also, Russian imperialism also, is seen by American imperialism as a direct threat to its interests, as we shall later in this discussion.

That means that globalisation is turning into its opposite, causing colossal crises. And by the way, coming back to the question of debt, the world economy now, as a result of these distortions which were created in the previous period, because that’s what they were, they distorted the normal market mechanism, they are now confronted with a huge mountain of debt. Now, look out the window, what do you see? Mountains! Beautiful mountains! Mountains are wonderful things, ask the Swiss comrades or the Austrian comrades. Nice places. But there’s a problem with mountains! Sooner or later they experience avalanches, and the same is true of mountains of debt. You can expect a collapse of the banking system anytime. The only question is when and where, that’s all. But once it starts however, it will have very, very serious effects.

Growing tensions and instability

On this question of trade wars, and contradictions between imperialist powers. It’s not just America versus China, that’s not the only one, it’s also America versus Europe. They don't talk about that. As a matter of fact the Ukraine business is used to conceal it. Actually the Ukraine war has done more than anything else to highlight the contradictions between Europe and the United States. What the Americans want to do is to drive a wedge, drive a wall between Europe and Russia, particularly between Germany and Russia, because the German bourgeoisie gained quite a lot from their links with Russia in the past. Cheap Russian oil, cheap Russian gas, very important for the German economy. Now they’ve cut it off. Who was it that destroyed the pipeline, the Nord Stream pipeline? Nobody knows! Nobody’s claimed it. I know! I know very well who did it! There’s plenty of evidence as well, it was done by the Americans with the support of the Norwegian navy, that’s who did that. They said it’s the Russians! Of course it’s the Russians for everything isn’t it? It’s all Putin’s fault! The crisis is Putin’s fault! The war is Putin’s fault! The bad weather is Putin’s fault! If it rains it’s Putin’s fault! If it snows… Childish! It was the Americans. Why should the Russians destroy their own pipeline? It doesn’t make any sense!

NATO walking Image Number 10 FlickrIf you look at the recent NATO summit in Vilnius, it was a picture of honey and roses / Image: Number 10, Flickr

What the Americans want to do is to strengthen their stranglehold on Europe, that’s what they want to do, and at the moment they’re getting away with it. That won’t last, however. If you look at the recent NATO summit in Vilnius, it was a picture of honey and roses! A charming picture of absolute unity! ‘We stand united in defence of Ukraine, and we will do this, and we will do that and we will do the other!’ Yeah, okay. That was for public consumption, in private I think you will find, if you look hard enough, it's not difficult to find evidence that they're singing a very different song, but we'll come to that later.

For the time being, to show the growing tensions between America and Germany, and America and Europe, I summon as a witness for the prosecution here: Robert Habeck, Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister no less, who recently said the following: “It's like a Declaration Of War!” What was he talking about? Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine? Maybe the Chinese threats to Taiwan? Oh, no. The target of Herr Habeck was very different, his target was the United States of America, which has introduced all kinds of protectionist measures, tax breaks, subsidies and so on to key sections of the American economy, to the detriment of the German economy, of the European economy.

He said and I quote, I've got the whole speech, I'll just quote one [thing] to give you an idea: “The Americans want to have the semiconductors, they want the solar industry, they want the hydrogen industry, they want the electrolysers, they’ll be wanting our women next!” That, he said – this is the German minister! – that, he said, was like a Declaration Of War! And that speaks volumes about the growing tensions between America and Europe.

Now, I don't want to speak too much about the economy, except to say, by the way, the idea that increasing the rate of interest is reducing inflation is nonsense. These are so-called economists, they seized upon the limited figures for June actually, and suddenly, the heavens opened up: ‘thank you Lord! Thank you Lord! Headline inflation in the States is down to three percent’, they said. That may be true. There are certain factors for that: energy prices have been slightly reduced, that's a big factor. That however will not last, it will be a temporary phenomenon, and the underlying rate of inflation still remains stubbornly high, they don't like to talk about that. I repeat: it is not the increased interest rates that had any effect on inflation, or very minor effect. But it has other effects: it reduces the rate of profit, and it reduces the consumption power of the masses, and these elements, together with increased interest rates, and other factors that I have mentioned, have a combined effect that is quite clear. They are preparing the way for a massive slump. Now of course, when there is a slump that will tend to reduce prices, there’s no question about that. Then prices will fall, right enough! As will profits, employment, standards of living, pensions and a lot of other things will fall. They’re preparing for a massive slump. And therefore, the whole system in a sense is on a knife edge.

I won’t say more about economics, I’ve probably said too much as it is. Except that Lenin did say that politics is concentrated economics. But I have to say that sometimes, I get the impression that some comrades spend too much time burrowing into economics, figures, statistics and so on. Sometimes I have the impression that they mistake this for perspectives, it's not perspectives. At most it's the bare bones of a skeleton, but you need to put flesh on those bones. Ultimately, economics is decisive, that's true. But the only interest we have in economic analysis is the effect that it has on the consciousness of the masses, the psychological effect, the effect on consciousness.

Now, so far you could say, so far it seems that the capitalists have gotten away with it, they’ve escaped without any serious revolution, if you like. They've been lucky, you know, and a gambler, they are like gamblers actually, more than serious strategists, if he is on a lucky streak, he's won on the horses for a few weeks, he thinks his lucky streak will last forever. So they continue on the same line. What is this line? It is the only line that's open to them. The road to Keynesianism is blocked, even the imbecile reformists begin to understand that now, like that bastard Starmer in Britain: so-called leader of the so-called Labour Party. He attacks the Conservatives for their cruelty, which everyone can see, but when asked: ‘what's your policy?’ He pauses, scratches his head, looks into the air and then says: ‘Well, we will have to make some very hard choices.’ You know what that means: more of the same. We’ll come back to the reformists later on.

Nordstream Image Swedish Coast GuardWhat the Americans want to do is to strengthen their stranglehold on Europe / Image: Swedish Coast Guard

It's true that by pursuing these policy, this attack on the workers, which is not an ideological question as the idiot reformists think, they don’t do it out of choice, they have got no alternative now but to put the full weight of the capitalist crisis on the shoulders of the workers and the middle class, by the way that's a new factor, and the middle class. But this has consequences. You see, it's a law of physics: physics tells us, any material, any natural material, there are limits to the amount of pressure it can stand, definite limits. I tell you now, there are very definite limits to how much pressure the workers can stand. And those limits are being reached very quickly now, very quickly, as we will see, in one country after another.

But there was a time in the past when my task would have been very easy, because there wasn't much happening in the world. Maybe events taking place in this country, or that country, one or two countries, you concentrate on these events: that is no longer the case! Just look at the whole world situation! There is not a single solitary stable bourgeois regime in the world at the present time, not one! Not Germany, not the United States, not Austria. I mean clearly included in that now Russia and China also are not stable. There is this colossal instability. You see that reflected on the electoral plane. With violent swings from the left and to the right.

If you don't understand what's happening, like the stupid sects understand nothing, like in Italy, you might say: ‘oh, it's the triumph of fascism, look the fascists are in the government!’ Well take Italy, the right wing won as a result of the crimes of the so-called left wing! The crimes of the reformists, the so-called lefts. Goering used to say: “when I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun, I reach for my revolver.” I have a similar reaction when I hear the words ‘the left’. Unfortunately, I do not possess a revolver. What left? What left? The only function of these so-called lefts, these reformists, is to demoralise the workers, and to prepare the way as night follows day for the victory of the right, of course! And when the inevitable happens, I think it's likely in the States, very likely that Trump will win. Although you see the ruling class is desperate to stop him from winning. Now that's a subject in and of itself.

America used to be stable, very stable. A few years ago, if I mentioned America as a possible arena of revolution, people would think I was mad. ‘What, America? Surely not America?’ No, no: just look at it! I was quite amused when the Americans, the imperialists, they made a big fuss about the Prigozhin affair in Russia, because the war in the Ukraine is not going well, we’ll deal with that in a moment. That’s right, they were rubbing their hands, when Prigozhin staged his mutiny they were rubbing their hands: ‘oh there's going to be a civil war in Russia!’ Well there was no Civil War in Russia, but I'll tell you where there might well be a civil war. It's a bit nearer to home! That's the United States. Oh yes, very serious political commentators are commenting on this danger, massive polarisation.

And there is a massive polarisation between rich and poor in America, huge suffering, homelessness, desperation, looking for an expression, looking for an outlet. I noticed for example, when you had the collapse of this bank, Silicon Valley Bank, and Biden made a speech, he looked very uncomfortable I thought, very uncomfortable. And he's a Democrat! One would expect him immediately to offer subsidies, government subsidies to save the banks. He did not, he didn't, he was very cagey. I don't think he mentioned the word subsidy or bailout once. How do you explain this? You can explain it with the enormous build up of discontent in American society. The masses have suffered horrific attacks on their living standards for a long time, and yet they see the banks are swimming in money, swimming in profits. They say, ‘why the hell are we giving money to the banks? We need this money for our own people, for the old people, for the sick, the unemployed.’ That's why Biden was so cagey about that.

There are limits to all things, and in the States for example, there is a paradox, it is a tremendous paradox. You get this multi-billionaire, Donald Trump, reactionary, of course he's a reactionary, and yet is seen by broad layers, especially in the working class, by the poor people as somehow anti-establishment: ‘he speaks for me, he speaks in my name!’ And by the way the danger implicit in this was precisely shown by the attack on the Capitol a couple of years ago. That's why they are desperate to keep Trump out of power. I think he's got about a hundred cases against him, or something like that. But here's the joke, here's the paradox. Every time they take him to court his support in the polls increases! In fact, he actually made a statement about a week ago, he said: “a couple more cases like that and I'll be in the White House!” Yeah, it's funny, yes, but it's very striking. What it really shows is the depth of the crisis in America: economic, social and political, but that's a separate subject that we need to deal with in America. But that’s a separate subject that we need to deal with. American perspectives, we have to go into it in more detail.

Europe in turmoil

France demo Image Toufik de PlanoiseIn the modern economy, even a small group of workers can paralyse the entire economy in the space of a couple of hours / Image Toufik de Planoise

What is clear is, we used to say an explosion of the class struggle is on the agenda, that's what we used to say. We don't say that anymore. The class struggle is already a fact in one country after another. It’s true in some countries it’s faster, in others it's slower, but here's a warning for you, I’ll issue a warning to every comrade in this hall. The situation can change dramatically in your country, I don't care which country it is, in 24 hours. And the consciousness of the workers, of the masses, can be transformed in 24 hours, as happened in Argentina, actually, I think it was in 2004, if my memory serves me correctly; 2001 there we are. The president had to escape in a helicopter from the mobs that were attacking the government. Now you see that struggles beginning particularly in Europe. In Europe, it’s at its most advanced expression, and this can change of course, but I make no apology for concentrating on Europe. Take France for example. Here you get a classical situation. Macron, by the way, the great Reformer; yeah some reform, to raise the pension age. By the way, I think he only wants to raise it to 65 doesn't he? To 64! What's it in Britain? 66, and they want to raise it to 68! That tells you all you need to know about the future of reformism.

But you see when I come to this question of swings, that's right, the violent swings of the electorate. What are these swings? They represent the masses everywhere desperately trying to find a way out of this crisis, and therefore you have these violent swings. They first of all test the reformists, to see what they will do. When they see the reality of reformism, they swing to the right, to see what they will do. By the way in Italy I think they're finished, they've got a very narrow base anyway, and here in Italy the bourgeois needs deep cuts, deep cuts. And therefore the Italian bourgeoisie needs a stable government. But I think you should change the Italian national anthem, which I never remember what it was: not a very nice national anthem, I think. The French one is much better. Even the Welsh one is much better. But they should sing what Donald Trump sings. You know what Donald Trump sings: “You Can’t Always Get What you Want”! The Italian bourgeois can’t get a stable government! One unstable coalition after another. And blocked on the political front, the Italian workers will follow the example of the French workers. They’ll take to the streets, oh yes! And what a marvellous movement it was in France, you forget it seems like a long time ago, it wasn’t a long time ago. A huge movement of strikes and demonstrations. I think it lasted about four months. Long enough! Huge demonstrations! By the way, 75 percent of the population opposed this measure of the government, and Macron won the election with only 25 percent, if my memory serves me correctly. And that shows the real state of affairs.

Now, you see – and by the way, you can see the power of the workers actually revealed, unconsciously, even by Macron, who said, he complained at the beginning of the movement, he said: “a small group of petrochemical workers have, in effect, paralysed, or kidnapped the nation.” He said more than what he should’ve said. And by the way, this is the answer to all those sceptics and cynics who call themselves ‘lefts’. Not left at all, but reactionaries. They say: ‘the working class is much smaller than what it was, the working class doesn't really exist you know!’ The working class doesn't exist? I don't know why we aren’t sitting in the dark, somebody's put the lights on, I don't know who that was, any idea? Perhaps it was God? Oh no, Sunday was yesterday. And what Macron was saying, and it's true, in the modern economy, even a small group of workers, like the petrochemical workers, or to follow my example the electricity workers or the bank workers, any one of those sections can paralyse the entire economy in the space of a couple of hours. They could bring the government to its knees, just one section. That shows the colossal power of the working class!

Once it is mobilised and led, that's the point, for the seizure of power. Yes, but that's objectively true, objectively they have this power, but the objective factor is not sufficient to guarantee victory. Just as in war, the fact that you have a bigger army composed of courageous soldiers, that doesn't win the war either. Unless you have competent generals, and a competent general staff, you will lose no matter how many forces you’ve got. And the power of the French workers, which is very great, and the morale was tremendous and so on, was completely undermined by the leadership, by the trade union leaders in particular, leaders of the CGT in particular.

Now it seems Macron has won, he pushed through this demand, this anti-democratic measure through anti-democratic means, it's become law, so the workers have lost. Yes but that's not the end of the story. By his actions Macron has exposed, very effectively exposed, in the eyes of millions of people, the disgusting fraud of so-called bourgeois democracy. It's a lie and a deception and a fraud, and conclusions will be drawn, and are being drawn by that.

You know the confidence in the establishment now, in all countries, in the law, in politics, in parliaments, in governments, in judges, in everything, it's being questioned, in a way that was not the case before, and people are drawing conclusions. In France there'll be an enormous accumulation of anger, of frustration, of rage, of bitterness, we’ll see what will happen in the next elections. But I won't develop that question any further, except to say, what I was particularly interested in, was the effects inside the unions. Particularly inside this CGT, for the first time in history, CGT used to be controlled by the Communist Party, by the Stalinists, used to be very disciplined, you didn't vote against the leadership of the CGT. After this betrayal, for the first time in history, the CGT Congress voted against the leadership, the leadership was defeated and now there's the development of a mass left wing inside the CGT. I think it’s based in one of the federations near Marseilles, I’m not sure, but it’s national anyway. There’s a lesson here, think about it. Those comrades who think: ‘Oh the trade unions are reactionary, they’re led by right-wing leaders’, that’s all perfectly true. ‘They will never change!’ That is false! Absolutely false. And by the way, if that argument was true, revolution would also be impossible. Because what you’re saying is, the crisis of capitalism has no effect on the consciousness of the workers, that’s what you’re saying if you say something like that. But the example of France shows decisively that is not the case.

Developments in Britain are similar. In Germany by the way, what happens? Nothing ever happens in Germany? Wrong again! The German government just passed an austerity programme, with savage cuts, with 30 billion EUR of cuts. In health, in education, in everything, except for one thing: defence! Defence was not cut. Money goes to Ukraine, that will have consequences as well. It reminds me a little bit of what Goering said. He said, and I quote: “guns before butter, guns will make us great, butter will only make us fat.” Well, he should know about that because he was a fairly large-sized sort of gentleman. But you see in Greece also, there’s been strikes as well. In Canada, strikes of the teaching assistants in Ontario, strikes of 100,000 civil servants, 7,000 dockers on the west coast, and in the USA, this big movement in the States is an expression of the colossal anger and frustration that exists. And there's one thing actually, one aspect that strikes me, which is different in these strikes and that is the high level of rank-and-file participation. There's a lot more pressure from below than in the past, that itself is a reflection of a change in consciousness you see. It's not abstract, it cannot be an abstraction, it's a fact that people are so disgusted, so discontented, they turn up and they forcefully express their views. And therefore the stage is set also for a crisis in the unions, as night follows day. I predict that the old generation of right-wing trade union leaders, they’ll either retire gracefully with a lot of money or there'll be vomited out, kicked out and replaced, not with Marxists in the first instance, but with more radical, more militant rank-and-file elements that are more willing to reflect the mood, the real mood of the working class.

And here's another mistake, I think comrades often make: you cannot understand what's happening just from the tops, Jesus, or from the sides, it seems. You have to see the real mood that exists at the bottom of society, where there's a colossal ferment taking place, which sooner or later must express itself, and by the way, we neglect the trade unions at our peril. Don't get me wrong, we were absolutely correct to focus on the youth, that's correct, we continue to concentrate on the youth. But more and more we will come into contact through our work, through our agitation, with a layer of working-class youth. In the factories, in the offices, in the call centres, the delivery workers, very oppressed, and that's the key to work in the unions.

The Ukraine catastrophe

Now I have to pass over the question of the Ukraine, which now plays a key role in world perspectives. And we have to analyse it very closely. Now, you see, a key element here is the conflict between American imperialism, and Russian imperialism. It's right to use that expression. What interests have the American imperialists got in Ukraine really? That’s a question that must be answered before you take the first step. What’s their interest? What was their interest in Iraq? That was very clear: apart from getting rid of Saddam Hussein, it was the oil, they wanted to get hold of the oil, Dick Cheney didn’t conceal the fact. Didn't work out very well by the way. But Ukraine, there's no oil in Ukraine. Ukraine has got very little in the way of raw materials that the US should be interested in. Its main export is wheat, which is in direct competition to American farmers. But they have one, fundamental interest: to use, cynically to use the Ukraine in order to attack Russia, to weaken Russia economically and militarily, and if possible to destroy Russia. And that this is perfectly logical if you look at it, because what I said earlier: US imperialism, be clear about it, has got two main enemies in the world today, which challenge its interest globally. That is China in the first place, and also Russia.

NATO pic Image Presidential Administration of UkraineUkraine has got very little in the way of raw materials that the US should be interested in / Image: Presidential Administration of Ukraine

Yes but Biden would have liked to do these things, it's true, but frankly it's not going very well is it? Not going very well at all! And let's start with the economic side. Some comrades say: ‘ah yes but war is very profitable!’ Well that's true in a sense. As this pacifist one time said to Lenin, he went up to London during the First World War, and he shook his head, he said: “war is terrible”. Lenin shrugged his shoulders and answered: “yes, terribly profitable.” That's the sufficient answer to the moralistic idiots. You can't adopt a moralistic attitude towards war. War is war. Clausewitz put in very well. Lenin was very fond of this quote from Clausewitz. He said, this is important for you to grasp: “war is only the continuation of politics by other means.” That's all it is. You understand that, you’ve understood everything you need to know. By the way, for that very reason, we Marxists do not have one policy for peace and an entirely different policy for war, oh no. Our policy in wartime is only a direct continuation of our policy in peacetime with other methods, that's all.

Yes, but now I have to say that the Americans have improved upon Clausewitz. He said war is the continuation of politics by other means, the American imperialists now say: ‘economics is the continuation of War by other means!’ Oh yes, that's their policy. I mean, in the past, in the 19th century, if British imperialism had a problem they’d send a gunboat. That's old-fashioned. Nowadays if the American imperialists have got a problem with a particular government or leader, or whatever, they will get a letter from the American Department of Trade, which in so many words will say something like this: ‘you better change your mind a bit, pronto, or we will wreck your economy!’ That’s what they do!

Look at the conduct of the US in this war in the Ukraine. Theoretically they’re not at war with Russia, in practice they are. So they use the economic weapon: sanctions, which were intended to bring the Russian economy to its knees and to paralyse Putin’s war effort, Biden said as much. Has it worked? No, it has been a spectacular, humiliating failure. I haven’t brought the figures, look them up yourselves. Russia’s trade with the rest of the world is booming! With China of course, with India of course, Turkey, I think it’s increased by 300 percent or something like that. And many so-called Third World countries in Africa, in Latin America. By the way Russia is quite popular in these countries, America is not, I'll come to that a bit later on.

So economically it has failed. Has it had some effect? Yes it's had some effect on the Russian economy, don't doubt that, but the most damaging effect has been in the West and in America, in the middle of a serious economic crisis. Look at the effect of the war, that's had a massive effect in increasing inflation, a massive effect. It’s also a colossal drain. And please don't run away with the idea. I've heard some comrades express the idea, but they’re wrong, that America is in there for the long run, they will spend as much money, they will stay: no, no. Let me spell it out to you dear friends, read my lips: America's got huge resources, yes, but not unlimited resources. Not unlimited. And the limits are now becoming clear. Now Zelensky all the time is demanding more and more and more and more weapons. Now I see the Americans are sending them cluster bombs. These are terrible weapons, they shouldn't exist. I think they’re banned formally, not that that makes any difference, of course. But the reason they're sending these cluster bombs is very simple: they cannot, they haven't got the stocks now to send ordinary weapons which the Ukrainians need and ordinary ammunition.

So, from an economic point of view the war is a terrible drain, and from a military point of view it is a complete and absolute disaster. And the cruel reality is revealed now by the so-called Ukrainian counter offensive. Zelensky was talking about this offensive, I don’t know, for months and months and months. It never materialised. And that gives the Russians plenty of time to prepare the ground, to solidify their line of defence, and there's no question of surprise. Surprise is an important element if you're going to attack. No surprise: the Russians were waiting for them, with all their artillery, and drones, and rockets and missiles.

By the way, one of the biggest mistakes you could make in a war is to believe your own propaganda. Joe Biden, he seems to be a little bit, not quite all there you know, and he just believes the propaganda nonsense that he reads in the reports he gets from his State Department. He’s repeated this so often: you know, you know what the line is! ‘Russia is weak, we are strong, the Russians haven’t got good generals, we’ve got good generals, the Russians have run out of missiles, we’ve got plenty of missiles.’ It’s all a fairy story. The British were even more stupid, if that's possible. MI5, it’s a fact, in January said: ‘oh, the Russians have run out of missiles and we have reliable reports that they're fighting in Bakhmut with spades!’ Well, all I can say is they are mighty powerful spades that they have. And what are they bombing Kyiv with, spades? This is for little children, to believe this nonsense. The fact of the matter is, it is a fact, America admits this, the west admits this now: it is not the Russians running out of missiles and ammunition, it is the Ukrainians!

One of these imbeciles, who runs a think tank, one of the numerous think tanks or as I like to call them ‘stink tanks’, a British gentleman, so well known I've forgotten his name said: ‘Ah, these gallant Ukrainians you must give them credit for their bravery! They have done something nobody else in history has ever done, has ever attempted!’ I read these lines, I said to myself: “What planet has this individual dropped from?” It's true that nobody else has ever attempted to do this, and there is a good reason for that. Look, think: that's why you have this little item above your throat and your hairline, you know: think! Think! Behave yourself. Look, why should you send a huge army, of thousands of soldiers and tanks and weapons, think about it, across open territory, no shelter, against strong lines of defence, without air cover? It's true that that's never been attempted before, because it is not just a small mistake, it's absolutely bloody madness! It's lunacy! And the results are clear.

Oh, by the way I must mention these wonder weapons. You know: ‘we’ve got these modern weapons, sophisticated weapons, they'll make all the difference,’ remember that line? ‘They’ll make all the difference in this offensive.’ Yeah, Leopard tanks from Germany, wonderful! What happened? They were wiped out within a question of hours, trapped in minefields, and then cut to pieces with Russian artillery, drones and helicopters. Terrible losses. One Ukrainian unit alone, the unit that received most Leopard tanks, lost one third of their Leopard tanks in a question of a couple of hours. And Der Spiegel published an article that was interesting, comrades must have read that, saying that the tank crews of the Leopard tanks were refusing to go into battle, because they said that the tanks had all kinds of technical faults. They couldn't mend these faults, and they didn't have a manual, so they had to go on YouTube, which unfortunately was in German so they couldn’t understand. This was in Der Spiegel!

I don't know whether these technical faults were real or imaginary. I do believe that these crews were not very enthusiastic about going into battle under these conditions, that I believe. Because the human losses, deaths and wounded, they don't publish the figures of course, have been truly horrific, truly horrific. It shows the cynicism of the Americans and so on, they don't care about the amount of people that are killed. The so-called offensive has been smashed. How much territory did they win? In some places five miles, in some one mile: nothing! They suffered dreadful losses. That's why now that they have to resort to stunts like sending a few drones attacking Moscow, attacking the Kremlin, ships in the Black Sea, these are stunts to show that they are still capable of doing something. And what was the excuse of the Ukrainian general staff? You couldn't believe your eyes: ‘oh, it was terrible! These Russians! These terrible Russians, they put mines in the ground! And they fortify the defences, it's not fair!’

Okay, question: ladies gentlemen in Kyiv, were you not aware of the fact that they had laid mines? That they had a fortified line of defence? Because they had plenty of time? A deafening silence. I answer: of course they were aware, well aware! And they were quite prepared to send these poor bastards to their deaths on a suicide mission. Why did they do this? Makes no military sense. It makes political sense, or should make political sense. Because Ukraine now is entirely dependent on American imperialism: economically and for military aid, and they must get more more of the rest. But I repeat: there's limits to what the west is prepared to supply, or can supply. And they're getting a little bit tired of this war in the Ukraine, you better believe it. Despite all the rhetoric about we're all United and all this bullshit.

I'll give you one instance: Ben Wallace, you know who he is? He's an insignificant character, but he was the British Minister of Defense, until recently, and he's one of the most ferocious outspoken hawks, pro-Ukrainian, anti-Russian. He said a few weeks ago: “when I went to Kiev the last time, they presented me with a long shopping list” that was his expression, not mine, “a long shopping list for weapons.” Ben Wallace was so astonished, he said: “who do you think we are, Amazon?” He’s since resigned by the way. But the fact of the matter is the Ukrainians are now in a very serious position. And the imperialists behind the scenes, you better believe it, are putting pressure on them: ‘look you must negotiate a settlement.’ All wars always end in negotiations. But the trouble is: what has Zelensky got to negotiate? Nothing, therefore he wants to continue, I don't know if he does but his generals want to continue. But there are reports coming through now, there was a very interesting one in a Ukrainian paper the other day but I haven’t brought it, that there is war weariness in the Ukraine. The people are fed up. And therefore sooner or later they will have to negotiate, Putin said he's willing to negotiate. Yes but he’ll be negotiating from a position of strength.

Now I agree with the Russian comrades, it's impossible to be precise about how this will end. Impossible, I won't attempt it. Except to say what is clear: time is running out for the Ukraine, and sooner or later, there will be a settlement, and I predict it will not be at all to the liking of the Ukrainians. But that's another discussion, we have to be able to keep watching the position, which is a moving picture.

The duty, the absolute duty of communists in the West is to conduct a ruthless struggle against American imperialism and NATO. Of course, there’s no question of us supporting Putin and the Russian imperialists either. They’re also gangsters of a different sort. And the working class can expect nothing positive from Mr Putin and his gang. But in Russia the comrades have conducted a struggle correctly to expose and attack Putin, and that's correct, absolutely correct, and necessary. And I think it's equally necessary to as they have done to attack and expose Zyuganov and the so-called leaders of the so-called Communist Party, who’ve betrayed the cause of Lenin, if you like, and therefore that's that's important.

But there is just one problem here, one complication: the Russian working class at this stage, I would say the big majority of Russian workers support the war. Now, does that mean that we say the Russian workers are social chauvinist traitors, the same as Zyuganov and Putin? No it doesn't mean any such thing. The Russian working class is not enthusiastic about this war, but they accept it reluctantly because of a profound hatred of US imperialism and NATO. And in that they're absolutely correct, absolutely correct. The problem with the so-called anti-war movement in Russia, which is very weak now, very weak, is that it was led originally by the Russian liberals. Bourgeois liberals who are backed by NATO and by the West. And the question is, comrades, we have to be very careful, that's the only thing, not to present the slightest hint that in some way we're in favour of these people. Because that would finish us, that would finish us, as far as the Russian workers are concerned. So we have to work out skillful tactics, which are adequate to the situation.

Now having said that, I noticed during this Prigozhin affair, Putin really came out in his true colours, where he attacked the Russian Revolution, he attacked specifically the October Revolution, which he blamed for all of Russia’s problems, for Russia losing the war and so on. Now I found that very interesting from two points of view. First of all it completely exposes this gangster, who has nothing in common with anything progressive or revolutionary or socialist or anything of that sort. I say that because some of the stupid Stalinists in the West support Putin, which is a counter-revolutionary position. But more than that, why did Putin feel the need to mention the October Revolution at all? Putin is the reactionary representative of the oligarchy, the counter-revolutionary oligarchy, who despite everything live in fear of a new Russian October. And at a certain stage, I'm convinced that this will occur, that's implicit in the situation.

Tectonic shifts in world relations

Now I'm quickly running out of time, but we have to briefly deal with world relations, because this war has had profound effects in changing world relations, and it's a little bit like the change in geology and the tectonic plates. Which, as the comrades know, these tectonic movements cause explosions, earthquakes. The future now is far more unstable than what it has been ever since the Second World War. We are facing a period of wars, revolutions and counter revolutions.

Now, I haven't got time to deal in detail with world relations, except to say that American imperialism after the fall of the Soviet Union, they really had a big head, they really had what the Greeks used to call hubris: arrogance! Because at that time the USA was the only superpower in the world. Now that's changed.

Before I deal with this I must deal with China briefly, all too briefly, as China is another important country. And here again you see how things turn into their opposite. China was one of the main motor forces, the Chinese economy, which propelled the world economy for decades, opening up fields of investment and markets, but now that's finished. The Chinese economy is slowing down rapidly. I believe that the latest figures, the official figures, for the first quarter of this year is about 0.3 percent or something like that. It's also a huge problem of debt, the same problem of debt that I mentioned, hanging over the Chinese economy. And the Chinese ruling class is obviously seriously worried. Just take one element alone: there's been an alarming rise in youth unemployment, I think it's officially about 23 percent or 29 percent, is it? One of the two: in the towns and in the cities, it will be far more in the countryside. And they're concerned about this, and there must be again the rumblings of an enormous discontent, reflected in strikes, a big wave of strikes in the first four months of this year, I think that the number of strikes trebled, went up three times. These are militant strikes, plus a wave of angry protests against this excessive clampdown on COVID. Strikes and riots broke out all over China, very militant strikes, and what I noticed about this is the speed with which the government capitulated. They immediately gave into the workers’ demands; which is unusual, unprecedented I would say. So this shows that development is in the direction of revolution in China. We must be prepared for sudden developments. Explosions will take place in China when you least expect them, I predict that now, because of the totalitarian nature of the state there will be no warning, and therefore we have to be prepared for this.

Niger coup Image own workThroughout that whole Sahel area, there's been growing discontent and anger against French imperialism / Image: own work

Now, to go back to world relations. America is now faced with two powerful rivals: Russia and China, and I recently read an article by a chap by the name of Larry Summers, who's a former U.S Treasury Chief, so you know he knows what he's talking about. And he drew attention, he emphasises, the growth of the influence of Russia and China in many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. China now is the biggest trading partner for the whole of Latin America, that’s on America’s back door. And what Summers said, I’ve got the whole quote but haven’t time to give it, he said: “We say Russia is isolated. Russia is not isolated. America is isolated.” And he is absolutely correct. They’ve got big problems now in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa and a graphic illustration of that is the recent coup in Niger.

Now Niger was previously a French colony, but throughout that whole area, it’s called the Sahel area, there's been growing discontent and anger against French imperialism in particular, French and American imperialism. It led to a series of coups actually, this is only the latest. Previously there were coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. And this is definitely seen, in the NATO summit, highlighting this as a serious development, as a threat. The president, Mohamed Bazoum I think his name is, is a French stooge, he’s been deposed, and again what this reflects is throughout the whole area, a colossal anger against French and American imperialism. And the imperialists are trying to push African states to intervene militarily, they dare not intervene themselves. You can't have big white men butting into a place like that, that will really please the inhabitants! So you get this ECOWAS, I think it's called, this bloc led by Nigeria, it's now threatening to intervene, I don't know if they have intervened. I think they issued an ultimatum that was supposed to run out yesterday, I don't know. I haven't seen the papers today. But you see if they do that, that itself will provoke a colossal ferment, and movements throughout the whole Sahel, be sure of it. In Senegal for example, one of the countries involved, which is supposed to send troops to Niger, even the first hint at that idea brought the masses out onto the streets in street protests and demonstrations.

But really speaking the whole of Africa and the Middle East is in a state of ferment. There’s some very interesting developments in Saudi Arabia, which has been a US puppet in effect since 1945. They’ve consistently supported American imperialism. Not anymore! Not anymore: Muhammad bin Salman has done a deal with Moscow to restrict oil production, both they and the Russians want higher high oil prices, and yet the Americans were putting a heavy pressure on the Saudis to increase oil production. But they defied them. In Syria which was a defeat for American imperialism, thanks to Russian intervention, by the way they thought that they would topple Assad. They failed, and now the Saudis, if you please, together with the Russians and Chinese, have negotiated a deal for Assad to be welcomed back into the Arab Community. That's a direct affront to American imperialism. Even worse, amazingly, the Saudis have done a deal with Russia and China to patch up relations with Iran. By the way, that completely isolates Israel, which must now be the only point of support the Americans can rely on. I haven’t got time to deal with events in Israel, but there again even in that place you see mass demonstrations for political reasons, which I haven’t got time to go into.

Radical youth and workers looking for communism

Now unfortunately, the world is a very big place. I’ve run out of time. Einstein says time is relative but it's not my experience. I'll just say this: the few events, which I have tried telegraphically to convey to you, undoubtedly represent a fundamental historic change on a global scale. This is something different, and this affects us. You see there will be revolutionary movements. You already saw that in Sri Lanka and in Iran last year, but you see, objectively speaking, we are talking about objective factors. The situation is rotten-ripe for a worldwide proletarian revolution. It's the right conditions, all the conditions are there, are present, except for one. One factor is missing, but this is a decisive factor, because the objective situation on its own is not sufficient to guarantee success.

I mentioned in passing the complete bankruptcy of reformists. They have nothing to offer. Even the so-called lefts, it’s interesting to note: in the first wave of radicalisation following the collapse of 2008, the first wave brought to the front what you might call the left reformists, or at least some leaders that expressed themselves in very radical terms. You saw that in Greece, with SYRIZA and Tsipras. We saw in Spain, with Podemos and Iglesias. We saw it in the States with Bernie Sanders. And in Britain with Corbyn, but in every single case, you could see the absolute bankruptcy of the so-called left. The left reformists. Why is this? Was it because of their personal failure? Well, personal cowardice comes into this no doubt. But that's not the real explanation. The real reason is that all of these so-called lefts, without exception, really agree with the right wing on the most essential, central point. They all accept the inevitability of capitalism, they accept the existing system.

Iglesias Podemos Image own workAll of these so-called lefts, without exception, really agree with the right wing on the most essential, central point / Image: own work

You know, comrades, politics has got a certain iron logic: if you say A, you must say B, C and D. If you accept the existence of the capitalist system, the domination of the bankers and capitalists, then as night follows day, you must accept the laws of capitalism. No two ways about it. Therefore there's no mystery, betrayal is implicit in all forms of reformism, including left reformism. I'd say above all in left reformism. It's not a question of their personal character, it's written in their DNA. And therefore you see what happened in Spain, in Greece, in America, and in Britain.

Take Britain as an example. Jeremy Corbyn, if he wanted to, had every possibility in his hand to transform the whole situation in Britain. His election to the leadership of the Labour Party brought literally millions of people into political activity. The Labour Party was being transformed, to the degree that even the bourgeois in their press, they openly said, the Labour Party is lost! The Labour Party is dead, but from their point of view. And that should have been the case, if Corbyn had the guts to carry through a purge of the right wing, a complete break with the right way. But he was terrified of that. You know, all these lefts: ‘Unity! Unity! Unity!’ Yeah, all good friends together. The moment the right wing got control, what did they do? They expelled him! No arguments, no trial, no nothing: they expelled the entire left wing, all of them. Even people who are not left, who oppose the right wing. And now the Labour Party for the time being is solidly under the control of the right.

Who’s responsible for that? I'll tell you: Jeremy Corbyn's responsible. What's he doing now? I'll give you three guesses. No you’ll never guess. He's writing a volume of poetry! Which I sincerely hope will be more successful than his foray to politics. Yeah, but you see, you might say to me: well, Alan so far, so bad. I say: so far, so good!

You know, look: in the British Navy, there is a command, I don't know if the translators can translate this: clear the decks for action! Clear all the rubbish off the decks, we’re going into battle. Yes, I say: what's the meaning of this period we just lived through? It's a period of preparation, and it's a period of ruthless clearing out of rubbish, and is opening the way for a genuine Marxist tendency, a genuine communist tendency. You see this in Spain. And by the way we are delighted at the presence of comrades from Catalonia, from the Catalan communists, the Socialist Movement of Catalonia. This is the setting up of the Socialist Movement in Spain is of tremendous importance. Look at Pablo Iglesias, I met him several times actually in Caracas, before he was famous, I was more famous than he was. He invited me to go on his radio show. But you could see, alright he meant well I suppose, but he didn't have the slightest idea, no idea and therefore it was clear where this movement Podemos was going. Yeah, but Pablo Iglesias initially got a response, he did get a response. Issuing left, radical phrases. Phrases that sounded left. But to the degree that he approached government, he became respectable, they all become respectable as they approach government. He joined the Coalition with the PSOE, with the results you just saw.

Yes but all of these events do not pass in vain. Look, in America for example, Bernie Sanders, I think he's finished, the DSA I think is well on the way, on the direction to the scrapheap, and there is a good, growing section of the youth in particular that is looking beyond that beyond left reformism, beyond Bernie Sanders, beyond Tsipras, beyond Corbyn, beyond socialism if you like: they say, ‘no, no, we are communists, we want communism, nothing else will do!’

This is the most important element in the equation. Nothing is more important than this. We detected this mood and we are tapping into it. I think it’s 20 percent in the States or something like that support communism, among the youth, something like that. In Britain it’s 29 percent among the youth, in Britain! Where nothing ever happens! Yes! Remember that! Nothing: no strikes in Britain, no movement in Britain, no or left-wing Britain! Just look, dialectics shows us that things turn into their opposite, get that into your heads please! All of you! Get it into your heads!

Flag sunset Sri Lanka Image Nazly AhmedThe situation is rotten-ripe for a worldwide proletarian revolution / Image: Nazly Ahmed

Now, the question is, we are turning towards this layer, you know in practical terms, tactics and strategies are not the same. Perspectives is to do with strategy, a long-term strategy but you cannot build on the basis of strategy alone. You must base yourself on tactics, which is to put forward the most appropriate slogans, the most appropriate ideas to the given concrete conditions that exist. And therefore, I have to end on this note, but the slogan that we've launched: ‘are you a communist’, I think some comrades were surprised at this. Comrades, why were you surprised? Do we have to buy you an alarm clock to wake you up? Look at the situation! Even the few facts which I was able to deal with today! And I will tell you now: to the degree that this International, which has got the correct ideas, we are the only ones with correct ideas, we base ourselves on theory, that's our basic rock. You know, but after the theory, that's ABC, but there are other letters in the alphabet.

And therefore, the turn towards the youth, that’s clear. Lenin said: “He who has the youth has the future!” A lot of the old generation, they're burnt out, they’re fit for nothing, tired old men and women. You know, I call them the Dead Fish. You know, you see them, these heroes of 1968, so-called. I remember them from then. They were useless then, and even more useless now. They are sitting in the bars and cafes in Berlin, and in Paris, and in Buenos Aires, and in Rio, sipping their, rather, crying into their beer; no, no I beg your pardon, I will be politically incorrect: crying into the herbal tea! They're all vegetarians, of course. You know the song, join in the chorus, you know the song: ‘oh what a terrible situation! Oh what a terrible world! Oh everything is bad! Young people are not interested in politics, and not like we used to be! It's terrible, oh I wish I was dead!’ I wish you were dead too, there we are!

Well they are dead actually. You know there's a poem by Edward Lear. How does it go? Difficult to translate: ‘There was an old man of Cape Horn, who wished that he’d never been born, so he sat on a chair, ‘til he died of despair…’ I forgot the last line! Look, these guys, these horrible people, they're only capable of seeing the backside of history, they're not capable of looking at its face! Leave the backside alone. Look at the face, the face is the young workers. That’s the future, the rest is rubbish, the rest is nonsense, we want nothing to do with them. We will build on a solid foundation, the solid foundation of Marxist theory, that’s our rock. And these marvellous ideas of Marxism, living ideas, relevant ideas, the Communist Manifesto is the most relevant document that’s ever been written, and it’s more relevant today than it was in 1848. And carry these ideas into the youth movement. They are looking for these ideas, they are looking for us.

Comrades, this congress, it’s not just a study group to study ideas, it is that also, it’s also a school, but it should also be a school of communism, and it should be the starting point of an energetic, enthusiastic campaign to win over the best of the youth, the most militant of the workers and therefore create that instrument which is missing: a genuine revolutionary proletarian International. And with that idea I will end my lead off.

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