Following last year’s very successful world congress, the International Marxist Tendency organised an international school in Barcelona this summer. The nature of the gathering was different to last year’s. Being a school it was aimed more at the newer, younger comrades who have gathered around the tendency in the recent period.
It is our task to win the youth and educate them in the traditions, methods and ideas of Marxism. In this sense the success of the school bodes well for the future. Contrary to the idea spread by the bourgeois media - and echoed by the reformists in the labour movement - that the youth are not interested in politics, here we saw very keen young people, with a thirst for theory and a desire to understand the world we live in and, more importantly, keen to know how we can change it.
The mood that pervaded the gathering was one of optimism and enthusiasm. This reflected on the one hand the changed objective situation. Everywhere comrades can feel the changes taking place within the labour movement and the youth. Apart from this, there are also the successes that the Marxist tendency is having in many parts of the world, notably Venezuela.
Around 250 comrades gathered from all over the world, from: Canada, USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia, Libya, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Poland, Greece, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Spain, Britain and Ireland. As usual we had problems in getting comrades from several countries, either for financial reasons or because of difficulties in getting visas. These were: Peru, Cuba, Nigeria, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Turkey, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Cyprus, India, and Australia.
Part of the school
We will try and provide a taste of what was discussed at the school, by publishing the main speeches over the next period. Here we will limit ourselves to giving a general outline of the proceedings. Alan Woods opened the first day of the school with a speech on the World situation. He gave special emphasis to the situation in Latin America with particular attention to the events unfolding in Venezuela. He pointed out that the revolution unfolding in Venezuela was the key to the Latin American revolution and the world revolution.
The next day Phil Mitchinson gave a lead-off on Ireland, which we have already published on this web site under the title “Socialism and the long struggle for Irish freedom” (August 30, 2005). The debate was enriched by the contribution of a comrade from the IRSP. In fact two representatives of the Irish Republican Socialist Party were present, one from the North and one from the South. This confirms the continued cooperation between this party and our international tendency, who have come to similar conclusions on many important issues, and we hope this will continue to be so.
This was followed by a lively discussion on the situation in Venezuela with comrades Ricardo Galindez and Miguel Campos giving an outline of both the objective situation and the work of the Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria (Topo Obrero) which defends the ideas of the International Marxist Tendency within the country. All present were enthused both by the revolutionary developments within Venezuela and the successful work of the Marxists.
Comrade Victor Rios was also present. He had just landed from a flight from Venezuela and he had come straight to the school to address the comrades. Victor Rios is a veteran of the Catalan and Spanish communist movement. He was also a leader of Izquierda Unida (United Left). He is a prominent left wing intellectual, a lecturer at Barcelona University and is presently an advisor to President Chavez in Caracas. He has been following our material quite closely for some time, and has drawn some very interesting conclusions. He had met Alan Woods in Venezuela in Carabobo, but it seems that without knowing each other at the time, they had been on the same workers’ demonstration in Barcelona, under the Franco dictatorship back in 1973!
He gave a very interesting speech in which he made some significant observations about the process in Venezuela. First of all he recognised that a revolution is taking place in that key country of Latin America. We believe it is worth quoting at length what comrade Rios said.
Victor Rios on Venezuela
“Thanks for the invitation to share this time with you. I’d like to give Alan Woods a personal thankyou – we are friends. It has been very good for me to find each other again in Venezuela – both defending the same fundamental ideas and positions as regards the revolution in Venezuela and Latin America in general.
“This is not a coincidence. When one shares a living, critical, open, un-dogmatic, without catechisms, and principled Marxism, it is easy to understand one another. I believe that the tendency you represent shows the kind of Marxism we need – a compass to intervene in the revolutionary process. In Venezuela we have a revolutionary process, and I’d like to make a recognition of the work your comrades are doing in Venezuela (Venezuelans and non-Venezuelans) – important work in this complex situation.
“I agree with you all that there is a revolution unfolding in Venezuela. I mention this because there are many out there who are lost because what is happening doesn’t fit into their pre-conceived notions of what a revolution looks like. I agree with the analysis presented in El Militante about the revolution, so I won’t go into that as you can read it yourself. So what can I offer? Not much more! But I want to warn you about 2 contradictions/paradoxes that are developing and will be present at least until December of 2006.
The international front: the more the Bolivarian revolution consolidates itself in Latin America, and the more US imperialism fails to isolate Venezuela, the greater the risk of direct intervention – a paradox – the more successful it is, the more dangerous the situation becomes.
The deeper the revolution develops and is consolidated within Venezuela itself, the greater the consolidation, the greater the resistance form within Venezuela becomes, not just from the bosses, the media and the oligarchs, but from those who want “Chavismo without Chavez”.
“Here’s my hypothesis on this: from here to December 2006, US imperialism will try by any means possible to liquidate the revolution before Chavez is re-elected in that month, by all means necessary – but above all by relying on internal forces. Why is this? For four main reasons. It’s clear that if Chavez lives to December 2006, he’ll win overwhelmingly, despite a high level of abstention in the next August’s  regional/district elections and general Congressional elections in December (although the pro-Chavez parties will win comfortably).
“This will mean:
A) The re-legitimisation of Chavez’ democratic credentials without fraud – he can win easily - and this would mean a further six years of his rule, which would make it hard to characterize him as anti-democratic;
B) The consolidation of the social missions for six more years;
C) The strengthening of OPEC and the maintenance of fair/high oil prices for six more years;
D) The contagiousness of the revolutionary process with a socialist content.
“This is why they can’t allow it to get to this point. Therefore we must be alert. We must strengthen the process within Venezuela, and build a strong international solidarity campaign like your tendency is doing with HOV.
“This solidarity must not be acritical: the best support international revolutionary Marxists can offer is a contribution in the debate of ideas: on the question of what kind of socialism, revolution, Marxism we need. The debate over what kind of socialism we want includes a practical discussion – not just on ideas. This is a debate that is going on openly in Venezuela. There is the practical struggle against bureaucracy and corruption. This corruption and bureaucratism can destroy the revolutionary process.
“The debate over the role of the working class isn’t a debate over whether or not the class struggle exists or not, it’s a practical question of how we organise the struggle of the working class – how is workers’ co-management, or control, to be implemented.
“A debate on the role of the trade unions – what kinds of trade unionism do we want? What role for the co-operatives (8,000 of them, not all working correctly) and the informal sector of the economy (which represents 50% of the overall economy)? How do we build revolutionary trade unions in this situation? Your comrades, like Luis Primo, a personal friend of mine and an important trade unionist, are participating in this important debate and discussion.
“Another debate taking place is over the political leadership of the process. On the one hand we have Chavez, whose role is huge – this cannot be disputed – but this weighty role has advantages and disadvantages, as all revolutionary Marxists know from history.
“Then there are the parliamentary parties that support the Chavez government (the block for change) made up of various parties – they are important support, but not the most important. A revolutionary class struggle tendency is the key to ensuring the deepening of the process, working shoulder to shoulder with the masses.
“The masses of Venezuela are the protagonists of this process – the process is wide open, the workers are everyday clearer on the leading role they must play in the process, and the future of the revolution needs the participation of all revolutionary sectors – this is why it is important that organizations like yours participate in this process.
“Here are some of my suggestions. Your tendency has an excellent analysis of the situation in Venezuela and Latin America. As a group, you are playing an important role - good balance of reason and passion. But we need the individual role too – I invite you to come to Venezuela to help the revolution – send your comrades to get personally involved, to breath new life into the process, learn, enjoy from the experience. Socialism is possible – we can change the world and we will show that in Venezuela!”
Alan Woods and Victor Rios
Alan Woods, after comrade Rios had spoken, made the following comment: “that was a remarkable intervention. It gives us a feel for the revolution. Victor is a committed Marxist – an adviser to Chavez – and it is not an accident that he is here with us today. Together, through the united revolutionary work and effort - and sacrifice - of every single one of us, this international Marxist tendency can make a big difference to history. That is the meaning of this discussion.”
After this the school then divided up into a series of smaller commissions on the following subjects: Peronism and the Argentine Revolution, 1905 Russian revolution, French Revolution, Marxism and the USA, Workers' Control and Nationalisation, the Chinese revolutions of 1926-27 and 1949, the Hands off Venezuela campaign, Pakistan, Mexico, Italy, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. There was also a plenary session on the situation in Cuba, with Jorge Martin leading off.
Comrade Jorge stressed that the Cuban revolution is in danger, and that it is the duty of Marxists around the world to defend it against the onslaught of imperialism. He highlighted the debate taking place within Cuba and explained that the best way to defend the Cuban revolution is through an all Latin American socialist revolution, starting with Venezuela.
On the last day there was another plenary session on China today, where a very interesting discussion unfolded on what is really happening in this key country. We will publish material based on the conclusions reached in this discussion. But we can say briefly that the discussion looked at the process in China which has been one of a move towards capitalism for some years now. In the last period it has become clear that the capitalist sector of the economy is now the dominant one. Although there are still significant state run sectors these are no longer dominant, and now the process towards further privatisation is accelerating further. This marks a qualitative change in the situation which the Marxists will have to take account of in the coming period.
The work of the International Marxist Tendency
An overview of the work being done by our comrades and supporters around the world was also given at the end of the school. The report highlighted the tremendous progress we have made over the past decade. It is now ten years since the publication of the book, Reason in Revolt by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. The book was written at a time when the mood in the labour movement was down. In most countries there had been a series of defeats of the working class, the level of strikes was historically low. Among many labour movement activists there was almost a mood of despair. But at the same time many of the most conscious and thinking workers and youth were looking for a way out. They were looking for theoretical explanations of what was happening around them. That is why we decided to dedicate the time and energy to that particular book. Since then we have published many more. These works have established us as a serious point of reference for workers and youth around the world.
Our international web site, In Defence of Marxism (www.marxist.com) has also become a key point of reference for anyone looking for the genuine ideas of Marxism. There they can find a wide variety of articles, from reports on the day-to-day struggles of the workers in different countries, to in-depth analyses of all the key issues facing the working class, from the Latin American revolution, to the world economy, to the national question and so on.
However, our work has not only been one of defending and deepening the fundamental ideas of Marxism. We have also been actively involved in building the forces of Marxism around the world, and we have a lot to be proud of. In many countries, starting sometimes with miniscule forces we have widened our sphere of influence and we have attracted new layers to the ideas of revolutionary Marxism.
The most striking example of this is the work of the comrades of The Struggle in Pakistan. Starting as a tiny exile group in the 1980s, they have managed to establish a tendency which has supporters in all the provinces of the country, among all the ethnic groups, in most of the important trade unions and they have also a strong base among the youth.
In Kashmir, an area divided between Pakistani and Indian occupation, they have been particularly successful, which shows that a correct approach to the national question can pay big dividends. They have done this in very difficult objective conditions, which goes to prove that building the forces of Marxism is not strictly dependent on the objective situation. It is a question of having determination, enthusiasm and dynamism and seeking out skilfully where to apply one’s forces. By doing this they have established themselves as the strongest and most serious Marxist grouping in the history of Pakistan.
Their success is resonating across the Indian sub-continent with many of the best activists of the labour movement looking to follow their example, from India, to Sri Lanka to Bangladesh.
Another big success story is that of the Italian Marxists of FalceMartello. Earlier this year they were involved in the congress of Rifondazione Comunista, where the party leadership made a sharp turn rightwards, embracing Prodi and the Centre-Left. Five documents were presented at the congress. In order to get their documents accepted the Marxists had to collect the signatures of 500 party members. They collected close to 800. They managed to intervene in most party branch congresses. As a result they have spread their influence to many new areas where before they had no supporters in the party. Although they are still small in terms of the percentage they received in the congress, they were an important part of the debate and many members of the party listened attentively to what they had to say. In the next period, with the party leadership turning to the right, the comrades are poised to make big gains and become the genuine Marxist opposition within the party.
In Latin America it is the work of the CMR (Revolutionary Marxist Current) that has become particularly important. Starting with a few articles written at the time of the 2002 coup, our influence has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. The CMR has become the main revolutionary Marxist force in Venezuela. It has played a key role in such struggles as Venepal and the CNV. The CMR was the only tendency in Venezuela to raise the demand for nationalisation of these companies under workers’ control. At the time many on the left laughed at us, as they believed Chavez would never adopt such a measure. It shows what little understanding of the process in Venezuela these people have.
But in Latin America there is also the important work of the Mexican comrades, who have been working steadily for more than fifteen years to build up their forces. They have played a significant role in the student struggles and have started to develop an important base in several key industries. A Venezuelan scenario in Mexico is not too far off in the future, and the comrades are well positioned to become an important force when that happens.
An important development in the past period has been the launching of our Arabic language web site, www.marxy.com. This is attracting growing attention in the Arab world and many of the articles published there are being posted on several important Arabic language web sites receiving thousands of visits in a short space of time.
In Europe we also have to highlight the work of the Spanish Marxists of El Militante. They have established themselves as the only viable Marxist force in Spain. They are the only ones now producing Marxist literature in Spain, through the Frederick Engels foundation. They are the promoters of the Sindicato Estudiantes, the School Students’ Union, which has become the main point of reference for students whenever they enter into struggle. They have led student strikes of millions with demonstrations of up to 200,000 in Madrid on several occasions, such as the war on Iraq and others. They are an opposition force within Izquierda Unida and also have an important trade union base in such sectors as the shipyards, the metal industry, health service, construction industry and so on. They have also played an important role in promoting the ideas of our tendency across the whole of Latin America, from Mexico, to Cuba, to Venezuela, to Brazil and Argentina.
There is the important work of the Marxists in the USA who, although still in their early days of development, are beginning to sink roots in several parts of the country. They recently published the book by Alan Woods, Marxism and the USA, which should play an important role in the task of winning the next generation of US Marxists. Across the border the Canadian Marxists are also making important headway, as the articles published on this site clearly show.
In Britain the supporters of Socialist Appeal play an important role in several key unions, such as Amicus, where they played a part in the defeat of the right wing around the former General Secretary, Jackson. And more recently they have played a big role in promoting the Hands Off Venezuela campaign inside the British labour and trade union movement, linking up with important figures such as the Labour MP John McDonnell, co-ordinator of the left wing of the Labour Party and getting some key unions and union leaders to sponsor the campaign, starting with Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, and then moving on to such unions as NATFHE, Amicus, the T&GWU and so on.
It would be too long to report in detail on the work in other countries, but we can highlight the work of the French comrades who are getting an echo in the ranks of the Communist Party, or the growing influence of the Austrian Marxists within the Young Socialists and within the youth in general. We have our Russian comrades who are working in very difficult conditions, but nonetheless have the most widely ready left web site after that of the Russian Communist Party.
We could list the work of our comrades in the other countries quoted above, but that would need a book to detail. The general picture of our tendency, as reported at the school, is one of a growing influence around the world. In those countries where we are an established and well-known tendency we are making significant progress in terms of more and supporters coming towards us. But beyond these countries we are also attracting the attention of activists in countries where until recently we had no connections.
This development is due to two factors. One is the rapidly changing objective situation in many countries, where a layer of activists is looking for a serious revolutionary alternative. The other factor is the success of our comrades where we have dug roots, such as in Pakistan, Italy, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico and so on.
The general mood at the school was that we are poised to make significant breakthroughs in the coming period, where the patient work of decades will start to pay off in a big way, and through this process we will lay the foundations for a genuine, mass, international movement based on the genuine ideas of Marxism, of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.