The 2012 World Congress of the IMT, which was held in Marina di Massa, a seaside resort in Tuscany, Italy, marked an important advance for worldwide Marxism. It lasted for one week – from the 24th to 29th of July – with the participation of over 250 comrades from around the world. There were delegates and visitors from all over Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, and a record number of Pakistani comrades.
There were comrades from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, China and New Zealand. Apologies were received from Morocco, Nigeria, El Salvador and Russia.
Opening session: World Perspectives
Comrade Alan Woods opened the first day of the congress with a lead off on world perspectives. The main political discussion centred, as could be expected, on the developing European crisis. Here we provide a summary of his introductory remarks.
Alan pointed out that this is not a normal crisis of capitalism, but a fundamental change in the situation. It brings us right back to the situation that Trotsky described in 1938: an organic crisis of capitalism. The bourgeois have absolutely no idea how to get out of this. “The bourgeois are in stormy seas with no map and no compass and no idea where they are going”, he said.
There has been no real recovery. In the USA: unemployment remains officially at 8% (but the real figure is higher). But far worse is being prepared. China is slowing down. Japan is slowing down. And now all eyes are on Europe.
The bourgeoisie thought the boom would last forever. But now all the mechanisms that led to the boom have dialectically turned into their opposite, combining to push the world economy down. This has serious political implications.
In the last 14 months, half of the governments of the Eurozone have fallen in elections. This is a symptom of the beginnings of chronic political instability. “In Europe there is one summit after another – 19 so far, I think. And every summit is said to be decisive, but nothing is resolved.”
Spain is following the same road as Greece: economically, socially and politically. But Spain is larger than Greece, Portugal and Ireland put together. The Americans tell Europe to "do something!" The Europeans answer: "do what?" Only the Germans have money to spend, and they are not anxious to do it.
Greece is the "sick man of Europe." But many others are also sick. The magnificent movement of the Spanish miners shows that Spain is not far behind. The cuts in Spain are as bad – o worse – as in Greece. The old traditions of the Spanish working class are being quickly rediscovered. There is a mood to fight everywhere. But it is not being channelled or led effectively. That is the problem!
There are many similarities between the situation of Europe in the 1970s and 1930s and the present situation. But there is also a fundamental difference: the class balance of forces is much more favourable now. In the 1930s, the peasantry was a mass force, a majority in many European countries. These backward, conservative layers were the reserves of reaction. In Spain they were almost 70% of the population – also in Italy and Greece. Now they are an insignificant minority.
The "middle layers" – civil servants, teachers, doctors – in the past were also the social reserves of reaction. Now they have been proletarianised, and are among the most militant sectors of the class. The students before the Second World War were pro-fascist. In 1926 in Britain, the students tried to break the general strike. Now the opposite is the case. The whole balance of forces is different.
We must understand this. Fascism is not on the order of the day. The ruling class is compelled to rule through the reformists. Without the support of the reformist organizations and trade unions, capitalism could not exist for a week. But these apparatuses cannot hold back the class forever. One way or another, it will burst out of the boundaries. This has already begun, in fact.
There can be no quick solution to the crisis. But this doesn't mean the present period will be peaceful. This "death agony" of capitalism can last for a long time. We face years of turbulence, with violent swings to both the left and the right. This will have an effect on the masses, and on the mass organizations.
Of course, there will be different speeds and rhythms around the world. But it is the same basic process everywhere. We will have some time to build the revolutionary tendency. But we must not waste time. We must prepare in advance. It is not enough to build once the dam breaks.
The perspective is for world revolution. There is only one solution to the crisis: socialist revolution – the workers must take power. A victory in just one country, and the entire situation would be transformed, with important consequences for our tendency.
Our forces are small. We have passed through a difficult period in the last 20 or 30 years. We have been fighting against the stream. But the tide is beginning to turn. The conditions for building the IMT have never been more favourable. Throughout this period we have maintained the flag of Marxism. What is necessary is to build the necessary forces so that we are actually able to intervene decisively in these processes, not merely as observers and commentators, but as actors and leaders of the world socialist revolution.
There followed a lively discussion on a very high level. The question was raised of the importance of transitional demands, and it was agreed that a document on this important question would be published in the Autumn.
Summing up the discussion of World Perspectives, comrade Alan said:
“The main thing we have to understand is that the present crisis will last a long time: years, even decades. This is the opinion of the serious bourgeois economists. The Economist has written: ‘The road to recovery is long and dark.’ That sums it up in one sentence.
The euro is not the cause of the crisis – but it does enormously exacerbate the situation. It ties all the economies of Europe together. The countries in trouble can't devalue their currencies to gain a competitive edge. So we get what they call an ‘internal devaluation’ – vicious cuts and austerity. If you think this can all happen without an outburst of the class struggle in every country, you are living on another planet.
It is an irony of history that precisely at this time, the labour leaders are clinging more than ever to the bourgeois. This contradiction must be resolved. In the short term, all kinds of peculiar movements will emerge on the fringes. The sectarians will draw the wrong conclusions and will declare the mass organisations dead. But it is a law of history that will eventually assert itself: the masses will fight to transform their traditional mass organizations before moving to form new ones.
We must not lose sight of the main task: we must build the IMT in every country as quickly as possible.
Building the IMT
There was also some interesting discussion on China, which dealt with perspectives for the Chinese economy in the context of the present world crisis of capitalism. Highlighted was the fact that the Chinese economy is beginning to slow down as it is an integral part of global capitalism. However, its phenomenal growth in the recent period has led to enormous growth of the Chinese proletariat that is destined to play a key role in world revolutionary events in the coming period.
There was also a session on the building of the Marxist Tendency within the international labour movement. The discussion focussed on the fact that although the objective situation internationally is now far more favourable for the spreading of Marxist ideas than in the recent period, this in and of itself doesn’t lead automatically to the building of the Tendency. What is required is a systematic intervention in the movement to take advantage of the opportunities provided. All the reports from the different sections indicate that the Marxists are actively intervening in the movement and building up the forces of genuine Marxism.
Attention was also paid to the question of finance. The best ideas in the world, without the material resources to take them into the labour movement, will get nowhere.
In addition to these plenary sessions, there were important commissions on a number of countries. Comrades Farhad and Lal Khan gave inspiring reports about the work of the Marxists in Pakistan. The reports and discussions with the Greek and Spanish comrades were particularly exhilarating.
The Pakistan section of the IMT has 238 branches and 30 offices in 42 different areas. They held an impressive national congress with a record attendance of 2,500. They printed 12,000 documents for the Congress in March. They are a force in the political life of the country, with an important presence in the trade unions and the youth.
But our comrades are working in extremely difficult and dangerous objective conditions. There have been unprecedented cuts in living standards, in wages, conditions and constant power failures. The fundamentalists are killing people daily. There is a virtual civil war in Balochistan, which is really a proxy war between the U.S. and China, with the involvement of Iran and Saudi Arabia. There are killings and abductions every day. Two of our comrades have been killed in the recent period.
In the Pushtoonkwa region there are daily drone bombings. Nonetheless we have grown there by 97 since March. 250 comrades attended the Marxist Summer School in Swat in a mountain/valley area formerly held by the Taliban. The comrades are also conducting work in Afghanistan. The IMT also has many contacts in Bangladesh as well as India.
The Greek comrades explained the seriousness of the economic, social and political crisis that has destroyed stability and created conditions for an explosion of the class struggle. Just five years ago, Greece had high “European” living standards. Now it is being pushed into "third world" conditions – schools without books, hospitals without medicine, people without food.
The New Democracy government was elected on the promise to "renegotiate" the bailout pact. But instead, under pressure from the troika, it has agreed to implement 3 billion more euros in austerity this year, and 11 billion more in the next 2 years.
If Greece is expelled from the eurozone – which is not what the serious bourgeois want – things will get a lot worse, for everyone. Incomes in Greece would all fall by at least 55%. They are already at low levels. Interest rates would rise to 37%. Output would fall by 22%. Property values would be halved. It would be like 1923 in Germany.
Imagine the effects on consciousness. It wouldn't be a pre-revolutionary situation; it would be a revolutionary situation. The intelligent bourgeois understand this. Not to mention the effects on the rest of Europe. Spain would follow, then Italy. They are desperately trying to avoid this, but they cannot avoid it.
The class struggle, in the final analysis, will decide the fate of this government. Greece is in a pre-revolutionary situation. We have had two years of general strikes and mass movements, radicalization, swings to the left and big strikes continue in specific industries.
In these conditions Syriza is seen as the most radical left party and has grown rapidly. But the leaders of Syriza are under intense pressure from the international bourgeoisie. Under these pressures Tsipras zigzags to the left and to the right. Instead of calling for the nationalization of the banks, he calls on Greek banks to be part of a broader regulation. Instead of cancellation of the Memorandum, he calls to renegotiate.
The Marxists while fighting for the victory of Syriza, and working to build it as a genuine mass working class party, clearly and openly raise their criticisms.
Greece is at the forefront of the European Revolution at the moment. The European Revolution has begun. And now Spain is on the same path, with Italy just one step behind. No country in Europe will escape this crisis. All are inseparably interconnected.
The situation is ripe for social explosions
Outside the sessions there were many "after hours" discussions, in which comrades from different sections compared notes and exchanged experiences. The mood overall was very energetic and comrades were excited about the prospects for the IMT's development in the coming period. There were lots of new faces, lots of young people, and even a couple of contacts who joined at the Congress. This mood was very well summed up by the record collection that raised a magnificent 42,500 euros.
As usual, there was a lot of Marxist literature on sale. As well as the Marxist classics, there were some interesting new titles. The US comrades brought their new book Marxism and Anarchism, while the British comrades were selling the newly printed Volume Two of Ted Grant’s collected works: two “musts” for any serious student of Marxism.
This World Congress was bigger than last year and the year before that with many new comrades attending for the first time. The presence of a large number of new, enthusiastic, young comrades shows that the IMT is beginning to recruit new forces and is laying the basis for even stronger growth in the future.
Even more significant is the growing number of cadres, and new people who are taking leadership responsibilities. This was particularly noticeable in the case of Britain, but can also be seen in sections like Switzerland, Sweden and Canada, to name only a few. The IMT website, In Defence of Marxism, has become practically a daily news and analysis site with a huge international following.
The mood throughout the congress was one of cheerful optimism. All the main documents after debate and some small amendments were approved unanimously. And at the end, the Internationale was never sung with greater gusto.