Another world is possible – socialism
Some misguided people say that it is the very advances of science that are the problem. They believe we would be happier squatting in mud huts and working from dawn to dusk in backbreaking labour the fields. This is foolishness. The way to attain true freedom to develop the potential of men and women to the full lies precisely in the fullest development of industry, agriculture, science and technology. The problem is that these powerful weapons for human progress are in the hands of individuals who subordinate them to the profit motive, distorting their purpose, limiting their application and holding back their development. It is clear that science would long ago have discovered a cure for cancer or found cheap and clean alternatives to fossil fuels if it had not been chained to the chariot of profit.
Science and technology can only realize their tremendous potential when they are freed from the suffocating embrace of market economics and placed at the service of humanity in a democratic and rational system of production, based on need not profit. This would enable us to reduce the hours of work to a minimum, thus freeing men and women from the slavery of long hours of toil, and enabling them to develop whatever physical, intellectual or spiritual potential they possess. This is humanity’s leap “from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the defenders of the old order were jubilant. They spoke of the end of socialism, and even the end of history. They promised us a new era of peace, prosperity and democracy, thanks to the miracles of the free market economy. Now, only fifteen years later, these dreams are reduced to a heap of smoking rubble. Not one stone upon another remains of these illusions. Serious problems require serious measures. It is not possible to cure cancer with an aspirin! What is needed is a real change in society. The fundamental problem is the system itself. The economic pundits who argued that Marx was wrong and capitalist crises were things of the past (the “new economic paradigm”) have themselves been proved wrong.
The past boom had all the features of the economic cycle Marx described long ago. The process of the concentration of capital has reached staggering proportions. There was an orgy of takeovers and ever increasing monopolization, which has reached unheard of proportions. This did not lead to the development of the productive forces as in the past. Factories were closed as if they were matchboxes and thousands of people were thrown out of work. Now this process will be speeded up, as the number of bankruptcies and closures increases by the day.
What is the meaning of all of this? We are witnessing the painful death agonies of a social system that does not deserve to live, but which refuses to die. That is not surprising. All history shows us that no ruling class ever surrenders its power and privileges without a fight. That is the real explanation of the wars, terrorism, violence and death that are the main features of the epoch in which we live. But we are also witnessing the birth pangs of a new society – a new and just society, a world fit for men and women to live in. Out of these bloody events, in one country after another, a new force is being born – the revolutionary force of the workers, peasants, and youth.
George Bush is drunk with power and imagines that this power is limitless. Unfortunately, there are some on the Left who believe the same thing. But they are wrong. A revolutionary wave is sweeping Latin America. The Venezuelan Revolution was an earthquake that has caused aftershocks throughout the continent: The movement of the masses in Latin America is the final answer to all those who argued that revolution was no longer possible. It is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary, if the world is to be saved from impending disaster.
Millions of people are beginning to react. The massive demonstrations against the Iraq war brought millions onto the streets. That was an indication of the beginnings of an awakening. But the movement lacked a coherent programme to change society. The cynics and sceptics have had their day. It is time to push them out of our way and carry the fight forward. The new generation is willing to fight for its emancipation. They are looking for a banner, an idea and a programme that can inspire them and lead them to victory. That can only be the struggle for socialism on a world scale. The choice before the human race is socialism or barbarism.
For the Socialist United States of Europe!
The productive potential of Europe is tremendous. With a population of 497 millions and a per capita income of $32,300, it is a formidable power, which potentially could challenge the might of the USA. But this potential can never be realised under capitalism. All the attempts to push forward with the unification of Europe have foundered on the rock of conflicting national interests. The onset of recession will serve to deepen these divisions and place a question mark over the future of the EU itself.
The formation of the European Union was a tacit admission of the fact that it is impossible to solve the problems of the economy within the narrow limits of the national market. But on a capitalist basis, European unity can never be achieved. In a crisis, the contradictions between the capitalists of the different national states come to the fore. The present crisis has exposed the hidden fault lines and revealed the hollowness of all the demagogy about European unity. Despite M. Sarkozy’s assurances, relations between European leaders are severely strained, not least between the leaders of France and Germany, the two key countries of the EU.
The German government’s unilateral declaration that the country’s €1 trillion of private bank deposits would be “guaranteed” caught other EU governments unawares and appeared to trample on the pledge of European co-operation previously given at a Paris mini-summit of the French, British, German and Italian leaders. The German move threatened to draw savings from banks in other countries. The other countries were furious. But what was the difference between this and the declaration of the Irish government that it would guarantee all the liabilities of its six main banks for two years, or the British government’s frequent promise that it would take “all possible measures” to protect savers or M. Sarkozy’s pledge that French private savers would not lose “a single euro”?
This move showed the hypocrisy of the European Commission, which is challenging the Irish move, but said later that it saw nothing wrong in Berlin’s “promise”. What is the difference between Ireland and Germany? It is only that Ireland is small and Germany is big, and moreover controls the purse strings of the EU. Similar guarantees were issued by a succession of other EU governments – including Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Portugal – to prevent savers from fleeing to German (or Irish) banks.
In reality, each national government is trying to put its interests first. The mutual suspicions of EU governments come to the surface as soon as they are confronted with a crisis. Each government must struggle to deal with the panic spreading across the Atlantic through European financial institutions. Washington, with one government and one political system, found it difficult enough to cope with the global credit crisis. The EU has a single currency and single market but 27 governments and no overall system of banking supervision or economic governance.
It is impossible to unite economies that are pulling in different directions and European governments are paying the price for creating a single currency without the institutions or regulatory system to manage a single economy. In the coming period protectionist tendencies will inevitably come to the fore. The attempts of individual governments to attract billions of euros in savings away from other countries are an anticipation of the “beggar-my-neighbour” policies that we can expect as the crisis deepens.
Sylvester Eijffinger, of Tilburg University, a monetary adviser to the European Parliament, said: “This is a wake-up call. First we had economic integration, then we had monetary integration. But we never developed the parallel political and regulatory integration that would allow us to face a crisis like the one we are facing today.” Such are the strains between the nation states that the very existence of the euro might be called into question in the coming period. It is not inconceivable that the EU may break up, or at least emerge with its structures radically altered and the EU reduced to little more than a loose customs union.
The EU is really a capitalist club dominated by the banks and big monopolies of the member states. The new member states of Eastern Europe are used as a pool of cheap labour, with “European” prices and “Eastern” wages. On the other hand, the EU is an imperialist bloc that exploits the former colonies of European countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean. There is nothing progressive about it. The only way to achieve the true potential of Europe is by establishing a Socialist Federation, which would integrate the productive forces of Europe in a common plan. This would be combined with the maximum autonomy for all the peoples of Europe, including the Basques, the Catalans, the Scots, the Welsh and all other nationalities and national and linguistic minorities. It would lay the basis for a peaceful and democratic settlement of the national problem in countries such as Ireland and Cyprus. A socialist federation would be formed on a strictly voluntary basis with complete equality for all citizens.
- No to the Europe of the bureaucrats, banks and monopolies!
- For the expropriation of the banks and monopolies and the creation of an integrated and democratic socialist plan of production.
- End all discrimination against immigrants, women and youth. Equal pay for work of equal value!
- For the development of links between trade union activists on a European and global scale. For a militant workers’ united front against the big transnationals!
- For the Socialist United States of Europe!
Eastern Europe, Russia and China
The onset of recession in Western Europe is exacerbating the problems of the so-called emerging economies of Eastern Europe, where investors are dumping riskier assets in a flight to safer destinations. The relatively weak economies of Eastern Europe will pay a heavy price for their entanglement in the world capitalist economy. Sharp declines in growth and increases in poverty are anticipated in Russia, the Ukraine and Romania. Despite growth in some areas of Eastern Europe, the growth in per capita GDP for the region as a whole is expected to be zero.
Hungary is preparing for a “recession reality” and expects gross domestic product will shrink next year, according to Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. The government was expecting GDP growth of 3 percent in 2009 when it first drew up next year’s budget. Now it faces deep cuts and rising unemployment. The financial crisis comes only two years after Gyurcsany pushed through tax increases and cuts in public sector jobs and household energy price subsidies to narrow the widest budget deficit in the European Union.
The Hungarian government was compelled to seek an emergency loan facility of 5 billion euros from the European Central Bank. Squeezed by the embrace of the international bankers, Hungary will be forced to cut public spending in order to cut the budget deficit. As always, it will be the workers and farmers who pay the price. The government is proposing freezing salaries and canceling bonuses for public workers and reducing pensions to cut the budget deficit to 2.6 percent of gross domestic product And Poland and the other countries of Eastern Europe are only one step behind Hungary.
The peoples of Eastern Europe joined the EU with the idea that they would enjoy the kind of living standards they saw in Germany and France. But these illusions were soon exposed as false. A small minority of people got rich by plundering the people’s property through crooked privatisation deals. But the majority of Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians derived no benefit from the return to capitalism. During the boom they were exploited as cheap labour in richer countries. Now Eastern Europe is staring bankruptcy in the face. And economic collapse in Eastern Europe will drag down the economies of Austria and other exposed EU states.
Nowhere in Europe have the consequences of capitalist restoration been so serious as in the Balkans. The break-up of Yugoslavia was a criminal act, which has led to a series of fratricidal wars, terrorism, mass murder and genocide. This monstrous situation has had catastrophic consequences for millions of people who previously enjoyed a good standard of life, peace and full employment. Now many people look back to the old Yugoslavia with longing. Capitalism has brought them nothing but war, misery and suffering.
The situation facing Russia is not much better. The contradiction here is even more glaring than in Eastern Europe. The restoration of capitalism has not benefited the overwhelming majority of citizens of the former Soviet Union. It has created an obscenely rich oligarchy, which is closely linked to criminal elements. But this is a tiny minority. For millions of Russians, the past two decades have meant only misery, hunger, suffering and humiliation. It has meant the collapse of the health and education services, which were free for all citizens in Soviet times, as well as a collapse of culture, general impoverishment and inequality.
For a while, people thought that the worst was over and that the economy was recovering from the deep slump that followed the collapse of the USSR. But now Russia faces the worst financial crisis since the collapse of 1998. The falling price of oil, reflecting the worldwide slump in demand, has pushed the economy into crisis. The previous mood of optimism in Moscow has evaporated after steep falls on the stock exchange, which had to be closed because of the extreme turbulence. Like the fairy tale about the witch Baba Yaga, Russian capitalism is a hut built upon chicken’s legs. The crisis reveals itself in reduced construction volume, redundancies and restrictions on opening new credit lines for private companies.
The crisis has forced the government to follow the same path as Washington and London, spending billions of dollars of public money to bail out private companies. More than $200 billion have been allocated in loans, tax cuts and other measures. But ordinary Russian citizens will be asking why public money should be used to bail out the oligarchs who have got rich by looting the state in the past period. If private enterprise and the market was supposed to be superior to the nationalized planned economy, why does the private sector now need to be propped up by the state?
The situation is even worse in other former Soviet Republics, such as the Ukraine, where poverty is accompanied by political instability, corruption and chaos. For the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia it has been an unmitigated calamity. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are in a state of constant war, and the masses have to support the heavy burden of military spending. Terrorism is spreading from occupied Chechnya to other Republics. The war in Afghanistan threatens to destabilise not just Pakistan but all Central Asia.
There is an old proverb: “Life teaches”. Many people in Russia, the Ukraine and Eastern Europe are saying: we had problems before, but at least we had full employment, a home and free health and education. Now these countries are facing ruin and mass unemployment. The peoples of the Caucasus long for the return of peace and stability. Nobody wants a return to bureaucracy and totalitarian dictatorship. But a genuinely socialist regime, like the regime of workers’ democracy established by Lenin and Trotsky after the October Revolution, has nothing in common with the grotesque Stalinist caricature that emerged after Lenin’s death.
This was the result of the isolation of the Revolution in conditions of extreme backwardness. But now, on the basis of the advanced industry, science and technology built up over the last 90 years, the objective conditions have been created for a rapid advance towards socialism. What is required is the establishment of a voluntary Socialist Federation in which the economy would be in the hands of the state, and the state would be under the democratic control of the workers and peasants. But the prior condition for this is the expropriation of the oligarchs, bankers and capitalists.
The world slowdown is having a major impact on the Chinese economy. Chinese economic growth is heavily dependent on exports and at the height of the recent boom the annual rate of growth of exports reached the figure of 38 percent (in the third quarter of 2003). Now the latest quarterly figure has dropped to around 2 percent and with it we have seen also a sharp slowdown in manufacturing orders in the last few months. Serious bourgeois commentators are now discussing whether there will be a “gradual slowdown” or an “abrupt drop” in Chinese production.
Stephen Green, an expert on the Chinese economy at Standard Chartered, has forecast that exports could even fall to “zero or even negative growth” by next year. How tightly linked to the world economy China has become is shown by a recent estimate of JP Morgan Chase that sees Chinese exports falling by 5.7 percent for every one percent fall in global economic growth. This is leading to massive factory closures across China with millions of workers facing unemployment
In 2007 growth stood at 12 percent and in 2008 it has already slowed to 9 percent and could fall further. In the area around Hong Kong more than two million workers could lose their jobs in the next few months. With this comes a bursting of the housing bubble as house prices have come down sharply, leaving many Chinese families with negative equity, i.e. a mortgage that is worth more than the homes they have bought. This is having an impact on the domestic market. The response of the Chinese government has been to come up with an economic package to stimulate growth.
They need to keep growth above eight percent to maintain some degree of social stability. It is true that China has accumulated huge reserves. But these will not compensate for the loss of foreign markets as the world economy slides further into recession. As a result labour unrest is spreading and there has already been a wave of protests demanding unpaid wages, with roadblocks and pickets of factories. As in Russia and Eastern Europe, so in China, there will be a violent backlash against capitalism. The ideas of Marxism will gain ground, preparing the way for a new and irresistible movement towards socialism.
- An end to privatisation and the abandonment of market economics
- Down with the oligarchs and the new rich! For the renationalization of privatised companies without compensation.
- For a workers’ democracy!
- Down with bureaucracy and corruption! The trade unions must defend workers’ interests!
- The Communist Parties must stand for Communist policies! For a return to the programme of Marx and Lenin!
- For the reintroduction of the state monopoly of foreign trade!
The crisis of the “Third World”
The present crisis will undoubtedly hit the poor countries of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America hardest. Even in the boom the overwhelming majority derived little or no benefit. There has been an extreme polarization between rich and poor in all countries. Two percent of the population of the globe now has more than half the world’s wealth. 1.2 billion men, women and children live in conditions of absolute poverty. Eight million die of poverty every year. This was the best that capitalism had to offer. What will happen now?
In addition to the collapse of exports, which will hit all commodities (except gold and silver), including oil, they face the rising cost of food, which is largely a result of speculation. A recent report of the Banco Interamericano warned that the rising cost of food will push 26 million people in Latin America into absolute poverty. The President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick has warned that the world’s poorest face the “triple jeopardy” of food, fuel and finance: “The poorest cannot be asked to pay the highest price. We estimate that 44 million additional people will suffer from malnutrition this year as a result of high food prices. We cannot let a financial crisis become a human crisis.” These are fine words, but as the old English proverb goes, fine words butter no parsnips.
World poverty and hunger will increase as a result of the global financial crisis and the free market “structural adjustment” measures dictated by the International Monetary Fund. This is the inescapable conclusion of the latest report on global poverty issued by the World Bank. The Bank found that the number of people forced to live on less than $1 a day was increasing and could reach 1.5 billion by the end of this year. About 200 million people have fallen into abject poverty since the last estimate in 1993. In the Middle East and North Africa, per capita GDP growth was expected to be negative. Summing up the situation, World Bank Director of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, Michael Walton said: “The global picture that emerges at the end of the 1990s is one of stalled progress as a result of the East Asian crisis, rising numbers of poor people in India, continued rises in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a sharp worsening in Europe and Central Asia.”
In Indonesia alone, the proportion of people forced to live on less than $1 per day increased from 11 percent in 1997 to 19.9 percent in 1998, implying an increase of 20 million in the ranks of the “newly poor” – equivalent to a medium-sized nation such as Australia. In South Korea, the incidence of urban poverty went from 8.6 percent in 1997 to 19.2 percent in 2007. The number of people below the $1 per day level in India had increased to 340 million, from an estimated 300 million in the late 1980s. Recent data on the stagnation in rural wages suggested a further increase in poverty rates in that country. And this was with a booming economy with rates of growth near 10 percent on a yearly basis. Official figures estimate that the economic growth is already coming to a halt. In August 2008 industrial growth was 1.3 percent on a yearly basis, a miserable output compared to the previous year’s growth of over 10 percent.
The IMF demands that poor countries open their markets for the penetration of international capital. It demands cuts in government spending, the elimination of subsidies on food and other items of popular consumption and the privatisation of government-owned enterprises. The stated objective is fostering “sustainable economic growth.” In reality it means the destruction of their national industries and agriculture and a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty.
A recent study found there was a net transfer of payments of more than $1 billion from African governments to the IMF in 1997 and 1998. However, despite these increased repayments, total African debt continued to increase, rising by 3 per cent. While African countries urgently need to increase spending on health care, education, and sanitation, IMF structural adjustment measures have forced them to cut such spending with per capita spending on education actually declining between 1986 and 1996.
The catastrophe of the “Third World” is man-made. There is nothing automatic about it. In fact, there is no need for anybody to starve in the first decade of the 21st century. The money that has been given to the banks could have solved the problem of world hunger, saving millions of lives. In June 2008 the World Food Organization asked for $30 billion to stimulate agriculture and prevent future food shortages. It only received seven and a half billion, payable in four years, which works out at about $1.8 billion a year. This is the equivalent of two dollars a day for every starving person.
It is customary in the West to pose the “solution” of the problems of these countries in terms of aid. The “rich” countries are urged to give more money to the “poor” countries. But in the first place, the niggardly amounts of so-called aid represent only a miniscule part of the wealth that is being plundered from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Secondly, this aid is frequently linked to the trading, military or diplomatic interests of the donor countries, and therefore represents a means of increasing the subordination of the former colonial nations to their former masters.
In any case, it is unacceptable that countries with vast resources are reduced to seeking charity like beggars scrambling for crumbs from the rich man’s table. The prior condition is to break the domination of imperialism and overthrow the rule of the corrupt local rulers who are no more than the local office boys of imperialism and the big transnational companies. Neither aid nor charity but only a fundamental change in society is the answer to global poverty.
In many countries the working class, after years of despondency and exhaustion, is taking the road of struggle. The struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression continues. But it is the powerful working class in countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt that holds the key to the future. In Egypt we have witnessed a wave of strikes and factory occupations against privatisation and in defence of jobs, including the victorious strike with factory occupation of more than 20,000 workers at the Mahalla textile complex. The Iranian workers are also on the move. There has been a major strike wave, involving many sections of the working class: bus workers, shipyards, textiles railways, the Haft-Tapeh sugar works, oil and other sections. These strikes may begin with economic demands, but given the nature of the regime they will inevitably take on an increasingly political and revolutionary character.
In Nigeria, the workers have staged a series of general strikes (8 in the last 8 years!), paralysing the country and posing the question of power, only to be let down by the trade union leaders once and again. In South Africa too, the powerful workers’ movement has organised general strike after general strike, more recently in June 2007 and August 2008. We have seen impressive movements of the workers in Morocco, Jordan, and Lebanon and also in Israel, that bastion of reaction in the Middle East. There have also been mass movements of the workers and peasants in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where they led to the overthrow of the monarchy.
Latin America is in the throes of a revolutionary movement from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande with Venezuela in the vanguard. The appeals of Hugo Chávez for socialism have not fallen on deaf ears. The idea of socialism is back on the agenda. In Bolivia and Ecuador the movement of the masses against capitalism and imperialism is advancing despite the ferocious resistance of the oligarchies backed by Washington. It is necessary to place on the agenda the fight for working class policies, for proletarian international solidarity and the struggle for socialism as the only lasting solution for the problems of the masses
- An immediate cancellation of all Third World debts.
- Down with landlordism and capitalism!
- For the expropriation of the property of the big landowners and an agrarian reform. Wherever possible, large estates should be run on collective lines, using modern methods of agriculture to boost production.
- Freedom from imperialist domination! Nationalise the property of the big transnationals.
- For a crash programme to abolish illiteracy and create a skilled and educated workforce.
- For a free and comprehensive health service for all.
- Down with the oppression of women! Full legal, social and economic equality for women!
- Down with corruption and oppression! For full democratic rights and the overthrow of the local office boys of imperialism.
Down with imperialism!
The most striking aspect of the present situation is the chaos and turbulence that has gripped the entire planet. There is instability at all levels: economic, social, political, diplomatic and military. Everywhere there is war or the threat of war: the invasion of Afghanistan was followed by the even bloodier and more criminal occupation of Iraq. There have been wars everywhere: in the Balkans, in Lebanon and Gaza, the war in Darfur, in Somalia, in Uganda. In the Congo some 5,000,000 have been slaughtered in the past few years and the UN and the so-called international community did not lift a finger.
Conscious of its enormous power, Washington replaces “normal” diplomacy with the most shameless bullying. Its message is brutally clear: “do as we say or we will bomb you and invade you”. The former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, revealed that soon after the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 the United States threatened to bomb his country “back into the Stone Age” if he did not offer its co-operation in fighting terrorism and the Taliban. Now Musharraf has gone and the US air force is actually bombing Pakistan territory.
US imperialism invaded Iraq under the false pretext that it possessed weapons of mass destruction. They argued that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who murdered and tortured his own people. Now the UN is forced to admit that in occupied Iraq mass murder and torture are endemic. According to a recent opinion poll, 70 percent of Iraqis think life is worse than under Saddam.
The “war on terrorism” has led to more terrorism on a world scale than ever before. Everywhere they set foot, the US imperialists cause the most terrible destruction and suffering. The appalling scenes of death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan recall the words of the Roman historian Tacitus: “And when they have created a wilderness they call it Peace”. But compared to the might of US imperialism, the power of the Roman Empire was child’s play. Not content with the rape of Iraq, Washington threatens Syria and Iran. It has brought about the destabilization of Central Asia. It constantly attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela and assassinate President Chavez. It is plotting to reduce Cuba once more to the status of a semi-colony and organizes terrorist acts against it.
Most people turn away from these barbarities in disgust. It seems that the world has suddenly gone mad. However, such a response is useless and counterproductive. The present situation that confronts the human race cannot be explained as an expression of madness or the inherent wickedness of men and women. The great philosopher Spinoza once said: “neither weep nor laugh, but understand!” That is very sound advice, for if we are not able to understand the world we live in, we will never be able to change it. History is not meaningless. It can be explained and Marxism provides a scientific explanation.
It is pointless to approach war from a sentimental point of view. Clausewitz pointed out long ago that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This bloody mess reflects something. It is a reflection of the insoluble contradictions that face imperialism on a world scale. They are the convulsions of a socio-economic system that finds itself in an impasse. We have seen similar situations before in world history, as in the long decline of the Roman Empire or the period of the waning of feudalism. The present global instability is only a reflection of the fact that the capitalist system has exhausted its historical potential and is no longer able to develop the productive forces as it did in the past.
Senile capitalism, besieged with insoluble contradictions on all sides, finds its counterpart in the most brutal imperialism the world has ever seen. The galloping arms race is consuming an ever-growing portion of the wealth created by the working class. The USA, which is now the world’s only superpower, every year spends approximately 600 billion dollars on arms. It accounts for almost 40 percent of total world military expenditure. By contrast, Britain, France and Germany represent about five percent each, while Russia, incredibly, only accounts for about six percent. This situation represents a threat to the future of humanity.
The enormous sums spent on arms would, on their own, be enough to solve the problem of world poverty. According to one estimate the total cost of the war in Iraq alone will have cost the USA $3 trillion. Everyone knows that this is madness. But disarmament can only be achieved through a fundamental change in society. The liquidation of imperialism can only be achieved by liquidating capitalism and the rule of the banks and monopolies, establishing a rational world order, based on the requirements of people, not the voracious struggle for markets, raw materials and spheres of influence, which is the real cause of war.
- Opposition to the reactionary wars waged by imperialism.
- Immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
- A drastic cut in wasteful arms expenditure and a massive increase in social spending.
- Full civil rights for soldiers, including the right to join trade unions and the right to strike.
- Defend Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia against the aggressive plans of Washington!
- Against racism! Defend the rights of all oppressed and exploited people! For the unity of all workers, irrespective of colour, race, nationality or religion.
- For proletarian internationalism! Workers of the world unite!
For a socialist world!
The market cannot be planned or regulated. It does not respond to the measures taken by national governments. The President of the World Bank came close to admitting this when he said: “The G7 is not working. We need a better group for a better time”. But better times are not in sight. The IMF cannot possibly underwrite the whole world. And the crisis, which is now staring us in the face, is worldwide. No country can escape. The crisis is global and it demands a global solution. This can only be supplied by socialism.
In the Middle Ages production was limited to the local market. Even to move goods from one town to another involved paying tolls, taxes and other duties. Overthrowing these feudal restrictions and establishing the national market and the nation state was the prior condition for the development of modern capitalism. In the 21st century, however, the nation states and the national market are too narrow to contain the fabulous development of industry, agriculture, science and technology. Out of a collection of national economies sprang the world market. Karl Marx already foresaw this in a brilliant prediction in The Communist Manifesto over 150 years ago. The crushing domination of the world market is now the most important feature of the modern epoch.
In its early days capitalism played a progressive role in sweeping away the old feudal barriers and restrictions and creating the national market. Later, the expansion of capitalism created a world market, and the domination of the world market is the most important feature of the modern epoch. The advent of globalisation is an expression of the fact that the growth of the productive forces has outstripped the narrow limits of the nation state. However, globalisation does not abolish the contradictions of capitalism. It only reproduces them on a far vaster scale. For a time, capitalism succeeded in overcoming its contradictions by increasing world trade (globalisation). For the first time in history, the entire world has been drawn into the world market. The capitalists found new markets and avenues of investment in China and other countries. But this has now reached its limits.
The present crisis is, in the last analysis, an expression of the revolt of the productive forces against the straitjackets of private property and the nation state. The present crisis is global in character. Globalisation reveals itself as a global crisis of capitalism. It is impossible to solve it on a national basis. All the experts agree that the problems facing the planet cannot be solved on a national basis. The problem of world hunger has been greatly exacerbated by the production of eco-fuels in the USA. This is in the interests of the big agro-businesses, but no one else. Only a global planned economy can put a stop to this madness.
In its insatiable greed for profit, the capitalist system placed the whole planet in danger. An economic system that ravages the planet in search of loot, that destroys the environment, tears down the rain forests, poisons the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is not fit to survive. The roads in our great cities are clogged with private vehicles. Traffic congestion that meant people spent 7 billion hours and wasted 5 billion gallons of fuel in traffic jams in 2003 alone. The lack of planning is leading to the collapse of the transportation infrastructure and the deterioration of the environment caused by the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollution, 60-70 percent of which is caused by vehicles.
We leave aside the tremendous human cost of this lunacy: the accidents, the people killed and maimed on the roads, the unbearable stress, the inhuman conditions, the noise and the chaos. The loss of productivity is colossal. Yet all this could be solved easily by an integrated system of good quality free or nearly free public transport. Air, road, rail and river transport should be publicly owned and rationally integrated to serve human needs.
The continuation of capitalism is not only a threat to jobs and living standards. It is a threat to the future of the planet and life on earth.
Is it utopian?
Through increased participation in world markets, the bankers and capitalists achieved fabulous super-profits in the last period. But now this process has reached its limits. All the factors that served to push the world economy upwards in the last period are now combining to push it downwards. Demand, which was artificially expanded by low rates of interest in the last period, has now sharply contracted. The severity of the “correction” reflects the exaggerated confidence and “irrational exuberance” of the previous period.
Just as in the period of feudal decline the old barriers, toll roads, local taxes and currencies became intolerable obstacles for the development of the productive forces, so the present nation states with their national frontiers, passports, import controls, immigration restrictions and protective tariffs have become barriers that impede the free movement of goods and people. The free development of the productive forces – the only real guarantee for the development of human civilization and culture – demands the abolition of all frontiers and the establishment of a worldwide commonwealth.
Such a development will only be possible under socialism. The prior condition is the abolition of private property of the key points of the economy: the common ownership of the land, banks and major industries. A common plan of production is the only way to mobilize the colossal potential of industry, agriculture, science and technique. This would mean an economic system based on production for the needs of the many, not the profits of the few.
A socialist Europe, a socialist federation of Latin America, or of the Middle East, would open up tremendous new vistas for human development. The ultimate goal is Socialist World Federation, in which the resources of the entire planet would be harnessed for the benefit of all humankind. Wars, unemployment, hunger and privation would become only bad memories of the past, like some half-forgotten nightmare.
Some will say this is utopian, which is to say, something that cannot be realised. But if we had explained to a medieval peasant the perspective of a world economy with computers and space travel, he would have reacted in exactly the same way. And when one thinks of it, is it really so difficult? The potential of the productive forces is such that all the problems that torment the human race – poverty, homelessness, hunger, disease and illiteracy – could easily be solved. The resources are present. What is needed is a rational economic system that can put them to work.
The objective conditions for socialism are already in existence. Is this really utopian? Only the most narrow-minded sceptics, without knowledge of history or vision of the future, would say so. The question that must be asked is this: in the first decade of the 21st century, is it acceptable that the lives, jobs and homes of everyone in the world should be determined in the same manner as a gambler’s throw in a casino? Do we really believe that humanity can devise no better system than the blind play of market forces?
The defenders of the so-called free market can produce no rational argument that could justify such a preposterous supposition. Instead of logical argument they merely assert that this is a natural and inevitable state of affairs, and anyway there is no alternative. This is not a coherent argument but only a blind prejudice. They hope that by constantly repeating the same mantra, eventually people will believe it. But life itself has exposed the lie that “the free market economy works.” Our own experience and the evidence of our eyes tell us that it does not work, that it is a wasteful, chaotic, barbarous and irrational system that blasts the lives of millions for the profit of a few.
The capitalist system stands condemned because it is not even capable of feeding the population of the world. Its further continuation threatens the future of civilization and culture, and even threatens the continuation of life itself. The capitalist system must die in order that the human race may live. In the future socialist society, free men and women will look back on our present world with the same sense of disbelief as we do when we contemplate the world of the cannibals. And to the cannibals a world in which men and women did not eat each other also seemed utopian.
The crisis of leadership
In 1938 Leon Trotsky wrote: “All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet ripened for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only ‘ripened’; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. The turn is now to the proletariat, i.e., chiefly to its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.”
The working class long ago established parties to defend its interests and change society. Some are called Socialist, others Labour, Communist or Left. But none of them defend a communist or socialist policy. The long period of capitalist upswing after the Second World War set the final stamp on the bureaucratic and reformist degeneration of the mass organizations of the proletariat. The leaders of the trade unions as well as the socialist and communist parties have come under the pressure of the bourgeoisie and most of them have long ago abandoned all pretence of standing for a change in society.
The leaders of the traditional workers parties, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party are completely enmeshed with the capitalists and their state. Against their wishes, they were compelled to nationalize the banks, but they have done so in a way that amounts to a huge subsidy to the bankers and does not benefit the population at all. We demand the nationalization of the entire banking and financial sector, with minimum compensation on the basis of proven need only.
The leaders of the former Communist Parties in Russia, Eastern Europe and many other countries have completely abandoned the revolutionary programme of Marx and Lenin. We are faced with the glaring contradiction that precisely at a moment when capitalism is in crisis everywhere, and when millions of men and women are looking for a fundamental change in society, the leaders of the mass organizations cling every more tenaciously to the existing order. As Trotsky pointed out long ago: the world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.
It is impermissible for leaders who speak in the name of socialism and the working class, or even “democracy”, to preside over huge bailouts to private banks, which signifies a big increase in the public debt that will be paid for by years of cuts and austerity. This is done in the name of “the general interest”, but is in reality a measure in the interest of the rich and against the interest of the majority. But this situation cannot last.
There is no alternative for the working class outside the Labour and trade union movement. Under conditions of capitalist crisis the mass organizations will be shaken from top to bottom. Beginning with the trade unions, the right wing leaders will come under pressure from the rank and file. They will either bend to the pressure and begin to reflect the pressure from below, or else they will be pushed out and replaced with people who are more in touch with the views and aspirations of the workers. Our task is to carry the ideas of Marxism into the Labour Movement and win the working class to the ideas of scientific socialism. Over 150 years ago, Marx and Engels proclaimed in the Communist Manifesto:
“In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?
“The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.
“They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
“They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.
“The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”
The Marxists understand the role of the mass organizations. We do not confuse the leadership with the mass of workers who stand behind them. An abysm separates the opportunists and careerists in the leadership from the class that votes for them. The developing crisis will expose this abysm and widen it to breaking point. However, the working class clings to the mass organizations, despite the policies of the leaders, because there is no alternative. The working class does not understand small organizations. All the attempts of the sects to create “mass revolutionary parties” outside the mass organizations have failed miserably and are destined to fail in the future.
We will fight against the bankrupt policies and confront the old leadership. We demand that they break with the bankers and capitalists and carry out policies in the interest of the workers and the middle class. In 1917 Lenin and the Bolsheviks told the Menshevik and SR leaders: “Break with the bourgeoisie, take the power!” But the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries obstinately refused to take power. They clung to the bourgeoisie and thus prepared the victory of the Bolsheviks. In the same way, we call upon those parties and organizations that base themselves on the workers and speak in their name, to break politically from the bourgeoisie and fight for a socialist government with a socialist programme.
We will give critical support to the mass worker’s parties against the parties of the bankers and capitalists. But we demand that they carry out policies in the interests of the working class. There is no way that the fall will be detained by palliative measures taken by governments and central bankers. Partial measures will not provide a way out. The problem is that the leaderships of the mass workers’ organizations in all countries have no perspective of a fundamental change in society. But that is precisely what is necessary.
Social being determines consciousness. The working class in general learns from experience, and the experience of capitalist crisis means that it is learning fast. We will help the workers to draw the necessary conclusions, not by shrill denunciations but by patient explanation and systematic work in the mass organizations. People are asking questions and looking for answers. The task of the Marxists is only to make conscious the unconscious or semi-conscious desire of the working class to change society.
- Against sectarianism!
- Face to the mass organizations of the working class
- Fight for the transformation of the unions!
- Fight for a Marxist programme!
Help us build the IMT!
It is not enough to lament the situation the world finds itself in. It is necessary to act! Those who say: “I am not interested in politics” should have been born at another time. Today, it is not possible to escape from politics. Just try it! You may run to your home, lock the door, and hide under the bed. But politics will come to your house and knock on the door. Politics affects every aspect of our lives. The problem is that many people identify politics with the existing political parties and their leaders. They take one look at the scenes in the parliament, the careerism, the empty speeches, the broken promises and are alienated.
The anarchists draw the conclusion that we do not need a party. This is a mistake. If my house is falling down, I do not conclude that I must sleep in the street but that I must begin urgently to repair the house. If I am dissatisfied with the present leadership of the trade unions and the worker’s parties, I must fight for an alternative leadership, with a programme and a policy that is adequate to my needs.
The International Marxist Tendency is fighting for socialism in forty countries in five continents. We stand firmly on the foundations of Marxism. We defend the basic ideas, principles, policies and traditions worked out by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. At present our voice is still weak. For a long time the Marxists were compelled to swim against the stream. The International Marxist Tendency has proved its ability to stand firm in adverse conditions. But now we are swimming with the tide of history. All our perspectives have been confirmed by the march of events. This gives us an unshakable confidence in the ideas and methods of Marxism, the working class and the socialist future of humankind.
Starting with the most advanced workers and youth, our voice will reach the mass of the workers in every factory, trade union branch, shop stewards committee, every school and college, every worker’s district. To carry out this work we need your help. We need people to write articles, sell papers, raise money, and carry on work in the trade union and Labour movement. In the struggle for socialism, no contribution is too small and everybody can play a part. We want you to play your part too. Do not think: “I can make no difference”. Together, once we are organized, we can make a fundamental difference.
The working class holds in its hands a colossal power. Without the permission of the workers, not a light bulb shines, not a wheel turns, not a telephone rings. The problem is that the workers do not realise they have this power. Our task is to make them aware of it. We will fight for every reform, every advance no matter how small, because only through the struggle for advance under capitalism will the workers acquire the necessary confidence in their strength to change society.
Everywhere the mood of the masses is changing. In Latin America there is a revolutionary ferment, which will intensify and spread to other continents. In Britain, the USA and other industrialized nations many people who previously did not question the existing social order are now asking questions. Ideas that previously were listened to by small numbers will find an echo among a far broader public. The ground is being prepared for an unprecedented upsurge of the class struggle on a world scale.
When the USSR collapsed, we were told that history had ended. On the contrary, history has not yet begun. In the space of just 20 years capitalism has shown itself to be utterly bankrupt. It is necessary to fight for a socialist alternative! Our aim is to bring about a fundamental change in society and fight for socialism nationally and internationally. We are fighting for the most important cause: the emancipation of the working class and the establishment of a new and higher form of human society. That is the only really worthwhile cause in the first decade of the 21st century.
London 30th October 2008.
|<< Part 2
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- Hungary: the darker side of capitalist restoration by Julianna Grant (June 13, 2000)
- The death of Yeltsin: the end of an epoch and the birth of a new one by Misha Steklov (April 24, 2007)
- "China's long march to Capitalism" part one, two and three (October 2, 2006)
- Venezuela: New clashes between revolution and counter-revolution are being prepared by Patrick Larsen (October 30, 2008)
- US elections: Welcome to the “School of the Democrats” by John Peterson (5 November, 2008)
- Iraq: Five years after by Alan Woods (March 20, 2008)
- Marxism and the Struggle Against Imperialism by Ted Grant and Alan Woods (June 25,1998)
- "Seven years after 9/11: The invasion of Georgia – A turning point in world relations" part one and two by Alan Woods (September 11-12, 2008)
- Lenin and Trotsky - What they really stood for by Alan Woods and Ted Grant.