In the final week of July, nearly 300 delegates and visitors from around 30 different countries attended the 2016 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. Meeting in the midst of huge mass movements, class struggles, and revolutionary developments across the world, this year’s congress was undoubtedly the most exciting and successful yet.
Over the course of six days, comrades from across six different continents participated in discussions on: the perspectives for world revolution; Britain and the aftermath of the Brexit vote; the national question, with a particular focus on Scotland, Catalonia, and Kurdistan; developments in Pakistan; and the launch of the new edition of Trotsky’s great unfinished masterpiece - Stalin.
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The contributions throughout all of these sessions demonstrated the strength of Marxist ideas, and their ability to explain and understand the turbulent events taking place before our eyes today. It is these ideas, as Alan Woods stressed in his closing remarks, which form the main weapon that we have in the fight against capitalism. “You can kill a man,” Alan remarked, in reference to the tragic death of Leon Trotsky at the hands of one of Stalin’s agents 76 years ago, “but you cannot kill an idea whose time has come.”
The electric mood amongst the comrades present was demonstrated vividly, not only by the energetic singing on the final night, but particularly by the record collection of over 60,000 euros that was raised to help build the forces of Marxism internationally. This will help enormously in the work of the IMT in countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Venezuela, and Pakistan.
We publish here a collection of reports from comrades present at this year’s congress, which provide an overview of some of the issues discussed, along with a short introductory video by Jorge Martin of the IMT, who explains the importance of this year’s event.
See below also for a video of Alan Wood’s introduction to the discussion on world perspectives, as well as pictures of the congress. If you are interested in joining the IMT in the fight for revolution, please get in touch today.
Perspectives for world revolution
The world congress kicked off with the world perspectives discussion. Alan Woods introduced the discussion, with comrades from all over the globe contributing and elaborating on the situation in their own countries and areas.
The general trend of the world crisis of capitalism is reflected in almost every country on earth, with economic decline that the ruling class is attempting to solve through austerity and rampant attacks on the working class. Clear examples were given in the discussion, such as the events in France, Greece and Brazil.
As comrades at the congress heard, this has led to a global spread of anti-establishment feeling and political polarisation, with left-wing parties such as Unidos Podemos in Spain gaining popularity, along with right-wing demagogues such as Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump surging in popularity. In South Africa, Brazil, Spain, France, Venezuela, the US, Indonesia, and Pakistan: comrades in all these countries spoke of how the political “centre ground” has collapsed.
This political polarisation has forced the ruling class into difficult positions, with Donald Trump taking the Republican presidential nomination and Corbyn the head of the Labour Party in Britain; in Brazil the representatives of the bourgeois have gone rogue in their attempts to overthrow President Dilma Rousseff.
The biggest source of instability recently is the Brexit vote, which has thrown all global capitalism completely off course. The combination of Corbyn’s leadership, the failed Labour coup and Brexit has put Britain at the centre of the European revolution. The inevitable and oncoming banking crisis in Italy will ensure that this title is only briefly.
A number of speakers mentioned the importance of the economic slowdown of China. In 1996 China was worth 6% of world GDP; it is now worth 20%. The Keynesian methods used to keep the Chinese economy going in the face of the world slump has resulted in a huge crisis of overproduction, with Chinese steel, coal and aluminium now flooding the world markets. The fallout has been felt everywhere.
The situation continues to worsen in Latin America also. The key economic player of Brazil is in an unprecedented political and economic crisis, with a 25% drop in industry, 12 Million unemployed, and the PT government’s ratings going from 60% to 10% in the polls after the impeachment of Rousseff.
In Venezuela, the current economic crisis has shown the limitations of the Bolivarian movement’s programme, which does not break with capitalism. The drop in oil prices has seen the economy falling to pieces, and in order to attract outside investment the government has followed the well-trodden road of pursuing austerity and shifting to the right. However, the political and economic chaos now haunting the Venezuelan people deters any investment whatsoever and the country continues to rapidly decline.
In the United States, comrades emphasised the incredible political polarisation taking place, with Trump and Clinton now competing for the White House. Following Bernie’s endorsement of Clinton, there is now no alternative for the working class. 40% of the population now describe themselves as independent and many are looking towards new and radical ideas, with the majority of 18-29 year olds preferring “Socialism” to “Capitalism”; 34% of over-65s saying they are prepared to vote for a socialist; and 9% of the American youth even describing themselves as “Communist”.
Moving to the Middle East, comrades noted that the economic crisis has ended the boom that the stability of the past was built on. Terrorism, refugees, and the Syria civil war have all destabilised Turkey, where President Erdogan has tried to recreate the Ottoman. The recent failed coup has allowed him to cement his position. The key to the region lies in the power of the working class in the main industrial countries - Iran, Egypt and Turkey – and their revolutionary traditions.
In Europe, the Greek crisis remains unsolved and Spain remains caught in an economic decline. The political situation remains extremely unstable, with the last elections seeing three parties gain more than 20% of the vote, leaving the political landscape fragmented. In France, the Hollande government’s rampant attacks on the working class have caused strikes, national days of action, and the “Nuit Debout” movement of youth. Hollande’s unpopularity has allowed Marine Le Pen a good shot at the French presidency on a far-right ticket. Yet, the failure of the national days of action are convincing more and more people of the failures of reformism in general, whilst people are also angrier than ever at the French government and are looking for a more radical solution.
In all cases, as every speaker highlighted, the world working class are showing they are not prepared to take these defeats lying down and will fight back. The missing factor in all cases, Alan Woods stressed in his summary, is the subjective factor – that of a revolutionary leadership. This, Alan stated, is our task: to build up the forces of revolution. Workers of the world unite!
Thomas Soud, Brighton Marxists
Britain, Brexit and the EU
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum vote) was an explosive political development that has thrown global capitalism into disarray. At the same time, it has crystallised the ugly forces of racism and demagogy that plague society in this period of crisis.
In a special session of the congress dedicated to the question of political developments in Britain, comrade Fred Weston explained that, where once Greece and Spain were at the heart of the European revolution, the outcome of this referendum suggests that Britain is now the epicentre.
Fred argued that, while the EU is a reactionary instrument of European (and particularly German) finance capital, the present capitalist crisis does not flow from the EU as such. Rather, an underlying sickness in the whole capitalism system (for which the EU is a vector) has left many member states in an austerity-ridden malaise. The Brexit vote and impending collapse of the EU demonstrates that European unity cannot be achieved on a capitalist basis.
However, neither can revolutionaries take a one-size-fits-all position on this question. While a leave vote would be the obvious progressive option in a country like Italy, where the EU is loathed by the working class as the source of austerity, in Britain the situation in this referendum was quite different. Unfortunately, EU migrants were scapegoated by reactionaries like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage as the source of austerity and unemployment. In the absence of a strong left-wing, anti-austerity case to Leave, these right-wing demagogues turned the referendum into one on immigration, promising that voting to leave the EU would mean that Britain would regain control of its borders. While the British public voted to leave for a variety of reasons, xenophobia was the predominant message of the Brexit leaders.
Fred pointed out that there were progressive and reactionary elements to both the Remain and Leave camps. The former was led by David Cameron (eager to make good on his gamble of offering a referendum during the 2015 general election to quell the Eurosceptic wing of the Tories), joined by the ‘serious’ big-business wing of the Conservatives and the right wing of the Labour Party. These right-wing Labour MPs have subsequently used the Brexit vote as the basis of their leadership coup against Corbyn, whom they accused of not campaigning ‘strongly enough’ for Britain to Remain. However, many in the labour movement voted to Remain out of a healthy and understandable disgust at the racist character of the official Leave campaign, as did the majority of youth. Further Remain voters were motivated by the horrific assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox by a deranged fascist, who murdered Cox in retaliation for her (and Labour’s) position on Europe.
In conclusion, Fred explained that Socialist Appeal’s (the British section of the IMT) decision to support neither reactionary camp reflected the objective circumstances of this particular referendum. The British Marxists presented an alternative vision of the United Socialist States of Europe, which resonated with the best layers of youth and workers who could see the lies and hypocrisy on both sides.
In the discussion, comrade Rob Sewell elaborated that the Brexit vote was a ‘distorted revolt against the establishment’, a view echoed by comrades from Italy and Austria. Comrade Marie Frederiksen discussed recent events in Denmark, in which the racist Danish People’s Party and the soft-left Danish Unity Party are both pushing for a referendum inspired by Brexit. The former has taken an anti-immigrant position, while the latter celebrated Brexit as a victory for workers’ rights against EU austerity and is campaigning for the Danes to similarly ‘liberate’ themselves. Marie agreed with the British comrades that it would be a mistake for the Marxists to automatically support this call, and that the most radicalised layers in Danish society can be better connected with on the basis of a clear, revolutionary demand for a Socialist United States of Europe.
The main slogan of the Marxists everywhere, Fred emphasised, is: In or Out, the problem is capitalism – No the Bosses’ EU! For the Socialist United States of Europe!
Joe Attard, KCL Marxists
Lessons from Pakistan
I was extremely fortunate and privileged to be able to attend what has been justifiably said to be the best ever World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. There were many great discussions and the mood among the 300 international delegates and visitors was one of extreme optimism and confidence regarding the future of the IMT.
For me one of the high points was the discussion about the lessons from the work of the IMT in Pakistan. The comrades there have a monumental task of building up the forces of Marxism in a truly difficult and dangerous environment. The courage of our comrades in Pakistan can be seen in the fact that where the troubles and the threat of terrorism is most acute, that is the area they flock to try and recruit workers to the ideas of Marxism.
Another striking facet of the work of our Pakistani comrades is in relation to the organisation of women and recruiting women to our ideas. Comrade Anam gave us an absorbing and detailed talk on the difficulties faced when trying to involve Pakistani women, who live extremely hard lives at the mercy of their husband and his extended family. Such women must do nothing that might bring dishonour to the family, or they may be killed. They cannot speak to men, other than their husband, and relatives and cannot go out alone for fear of getting raped. From birth, a female born into a poor family, is groomed for the day she is to be married, and usually she will be married off as soon as possible, so as not to be a further “burden” to her family. Who she is married off to is not important, as long as the deed is quickly done.
The plight of the Pakistani woman is utterly heart-breaking and it is a tribute to the work of our comrades, living and working in that dangerous and difficult country, that they have managed to recruit and train a solid number of female cadres. Solidarity to all those building the IMT in Pakistan!
Vic Dale, Isle of Wight