[Editor's Note: This document was discussed, amended and voted in July by the 2006 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. Most of the text was originally written as a draft in October 2005 in preparation for the Congress. In the process of discussion it was redrafted in February and then amended at in July. This has to be taken into account when reading it. For example the section of the document on Mexico was written long before the great revolutionary events that have been unfolding over the past couple of months. The document actually predicted that such a movement would break out if the ruling class attempted electoral fraud. September 2006]
Lessons of Haiti
US imperialism is not sure what to do next. Faced with this wave of opposition, Washington is reacting to events, not dictating them. The policies of US imperialism are being defeated, one after the other. In the past, the situation in Venezuela would have meant military intervention, but direct military intervention is ruled out in the short term. Instead, as we just pointed out, they would like to get other countries in the region to act on their behalf and have attempted to use the OAS Democracy Charter to interfere in Venezuela. But this has led nowhere. Leaders like Lula, who Washington sees, to some degree, as allies, do not dare to do its dirty work in Venezuela for fear of the repercussions at home.
Washington has been reduced to manoeuvring, intriguing, attempting to get some kind of a base through corruption and bribery, mixed with pressure and threats. The only places where they have dared to intervene openly are weak countries in the Caribbean: Grenada and Haiti. Even there the results have not been encouraging. Anyone looking for the true intentions of imperialism need only look to the small island nation of Haiti.
In February 2004, US forces kidnapped the Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide before sending in an occupation force with the help of the French and Canadian imperialists. Aristide was never a genuine revolutionary, and even allowed himself to be used by US imperialism, which tried to use him as a puppet. However, he proved to be an unreliable ally, and so Washington unceremoniously dumped him and instead based itself on the most depraved and vicious gangster elements to overthrow him.
The Haitian events show a similar modus operandi to imperialist actions throughout the hemisphere. Prior to the coup, the western powers redirected aid to anti-Aristide NGOs while the CIA armed, trained, and financed right-wing paramilitary groups. Before the paramilitaries could reach the capital, US and Canadian troops flew in, filled the "power vacuum", and prepared the way for a UN occupation.
Despite the presence of 9000 UN troops and police, the imperialists were unable to stabilise the situation in Haiti. 76 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day and life expectancy is only 51 years. The poor in the slums still massively support Aristide's Lavalas party despite frequent raids by government backed death squads, backed up by UN troops. There are an estimated 700 political prisoners in Haitian jails, including the leadership of Lavalas.
The imperialist "democrats" pinned their hopes on a rigged election that was repeatedly postponed. But when it was finally held, despite blatant rigging, mass demonstrations forced the Provisional Electoral Council of Haiti to accept René Préval as the next president of Haiti. The mass demonstrations paralysed Port-au-Prince for four straight days, terrified the imperialists. After two long and dark years, the Haitian people have defeated the coup that overthrew Aristide through revolutionary mass action. This was a crushing blow to imperialism and to the forces of reaction on the island.
In the past if there was a problem in any part of the Western Hemisphere Washington would simply send in the Marines. The next day the newspapers would carry the headline: "The Marines have landed and the situation is under control". But now things have changed. The mightiest power in the world finds it difficult to maintain control over even a small and poverty-stricken island with no army. This is a clear reflection of the limits of the power of US imperialism at the present time.
In Cuba as well important changes are taking place. The analysis of perspectives for the Cuban revolution demand a specific document, but if one thing is clear it is that its fate is inextricably linked to that of the revolution in the rest of Latin America. The development of the Venezuelan revolution has already meant a respite for Cuba and as the revolution in Venezuela and in the rest of the continent develops, its influence could be bigger. This is something that adds to the worries of imperialism.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cuban revolution was isolated in an internationally hostile environment. It was under the merciless pressure of US imperialism. The cruel economic blockade subjected the masses to intolerable hardship. The fate of the Revolution was in the balance. The collapse of the Soviet Union naturally produced a ferment in Cuba, even at the top levels. It is quite clear that, as in Russia, there are elements that would like to return to capitalism. But on the one hand, Fidel Castro remains implacably opposed to capitalist restoration. On the other hand, there is a huge reserve of support among the masses for the ideals of the revolution, socialism and the nationalised planned economy. So far, the attempts of US imperialism to push Cuba back to capitalism have failed. Castro remains popular and the pro-capitalist elements have been kept firmly in check.
The Venezuelan Revolution has undoubtedly given the Cuban Revolution a new boost. Not only has it provided much-needed oil, but it has also given new hope to the people of Cuba that their long isolation will be broken. The fate of the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions are indissolubly linked. They will stand or fall together. A step towards a nationalised planned economy in Venezuela would not only help weaken the pro-capitalist tendencies that exist within the state bureaucracy in Cuba and strengthen those sections which favor the maintenance of the planned economy but could also have an influence on sections of the masses and those sections of the Cuban state apparatus more closely linked to them and with more left wing positions.
Recently, Fidel Castro made a speech in which he warned that the Cuban Revolution is not yet irreversible. Moreover, he stated that the main threat of capitalist restoration is due to internal, not external factors. This is the first time this has been stated so clearly. Castro pointed to examples of bureaucratic corruption, swindling and theft, specifically naming the case of petrol. He called for the setting up of youth brigades to check up on petrol stations.
Capitalist restoration in Cuba would be a disaster, not only for the people of Cuba but for all of Latin America. For the people of Cuba the imposition of a savage, neo-liberal capitalism and market economics would be an appalling reversal. It would signify an economic, social and cultural regression. In a broader sense it would have a depressing effect on the morale of workers and youth everywhere. It would strengthen the hand of imperialism and provide the basis for a new ideological onslaught against socialism on a world scale. It would mean an immediate intensification of imperialist pressure on Venezuela and Bolivia.
The hypocritical western critics of Cuba and the bourgeois opposition in Cuba insistently demand the introduction of "democracy", by which they mean a bourgeois democracy. They want to introduce a system like that of the USA, where the office of President is sold to the highest bidder (in this case a mentally deficient Texas oil billionaire), where Congress is run by venal politicians who represent the interests of the big corporations that buy and sell congressmen like cheap merchandise and where the newspapers and television companies are owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires. Naturally, the demand for the introduction of such a "democracy" is inseparably linked to the demand for the abolition of the nationalised planned economy.
In the 1930s Trotsky predicted that the Stalinist bureaucracy would lead the USSR in the direction of capitalist restoration. The bureaucracy would not be satisfied with its privileged position but would demand that the nationalised planned economy be dismantled in order to convert themselves into private proprietors. The right of inheritance - the legal right to pass their wealth and privileges on to their children - played a key role in this. Now, after a long delay, this is what has actually happened.
However, Trotsky thought that capitalist restoration in the USSR could only be accomplished through civil war. He predicted that the bureaucracy would split along class lines, with the emergence of a left faction (the "Reiss faction") on the one hand, and a right wing pro-capitalist wing (the "Butenko faction"). But events took a different turn. Stalinism in the USSR lasted much longer than Trotsky had imagined possible. The old revolutionary traditions were completely destroyed. The degeneration of the bureaucracy reached unheard-of proportions. Corruption and bureaucracy devoured a colossal part of the wealth produced by the Soviet working class and undermined the successes of the planned economy. As a result, the whole thing collapsed under its own weight. A single push was sufficient to bring down the bureaucratic regimes in Eastern Europe, and the same process in Russia took only a few years longer.
In Cuba there are important differences with what happened in Russia. In Russia the memories of the traditions of October were blunted and destroyed. This facilitated the task of the counter-revolution. By contrast, the Cuban Revolution took place within living memory and many of the old guard are prepared to fight capitalist restoration. A large part of the masses are also prepared to defend the gains of the Revolution. This means that a "cold" transition to capitalism is far less likely than in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Fidel Castro and his supporters are attempting to resist capitalism and defend the nationalised planned economy. That is immensely important. But the methods they want to use will not solve the problem. Only a regime of Leninist workers' democracy can do this. The attacks on the new rich, the corrupt elements, bureaucracy, etc., can only be successful if they are linked to the programme of workers' democracy, that is, the programme that Lenin advanced in 1917 and was the basis of the 1919 programme of the Russian Communist Party that was abolished by Stalin after Lenin's death.
What is needed is not the hypocritical caricature of bourgeois democracy, but the encouragement of criticism and debate, open to all tendencies that accept the nationalised planned economy and are prepared to defend the Cuban Revolution and fight capitalist restoration. In this debate the Trotskyists must participate as a legitimate current in the Communist family. They will offer a united front to those Cuban Communists who are fighting capitalist restoration. They will prove in action that they are the best and most loyal defenders of the Cuban Revolution.
Above all, what is needed is to extend the socialist revolution to the rest of Latin America, breaking the isolation of the Cuban Revolution once and for all. That, after all, was the idea of Che Guevara - an idea for which he gave his life. The conditions are now immeasurably more favourable for the victory of the socialist revolution in one country of Latin America after another. It is not a question of "exporting revolution" (as if revolutions could be exported, like sacks of coffee). The objective conditions for socialist revolution are fast maturing - or have already matured - in a number of countries of Latin America. For this an audacious and courageous leadership is necessary: a leadership in the spirit of Bolivar and Guevara, not of cowardly reformists.
The indigenous movement in Latin America
We must pay closer attention to the indigenous movement, which has existed in an organized form for years, and which plays an increasingly more relevant role in several Latin American countries. The indigenous movement in Latin America poses challenges to Marxists as a particular variant of the national question combined with the agrarian revolution. The indigenous peoples of the Americas have been oppressed since the arrival of European colonists over 500 years ago. Now, a significant proportion of the indigenous peoples are to be found amongst the poor peasantry. However, the same as within any national grouping, there are also class divisions within the community; indigenous people are to be found amongst the urban poor and there are also rich peasants and even bourgeois.
We are in favour of defending the social and political rights of all of the oppressed layers in society, and particularly the indigenous population. We also give full support to the agrarian revolution of the poor peasantry. The expropriation of the landowners, access to the land and its common use by the indigenous communities, are all part of the revolutionary socialist programme. In reality, the landowners and capitalists in the cities make up one and the same class. The poor indigenous peasants in the countryside, and the working class in the cities, face the same enemy. Therefore, any attempt to counterpoise the aims of the workers and those of the indigenous, (without also recognizing the class divide within the indigenous community), has reactionary consequences. Only the united revolutionary struggle of the workers, the poor peasantry, and all oppressed layers in society can successfully defeat the landlords and the capitalists.
Unfortunately, some of the leaders of the indigenous movement have fallen into the separatist trap of dividing the indigenous people from the working class and the fight for socialism. Whether they come from a bourgeois or ultra-left perspective, they see the indigenous peoples as a homogenous classless mass. We reject any tendencies that work to divide and set the workers and peasants of the same country against each other, and thus objectively strengthen the counterrevolutionary plans of the national bourgeoisie and imperialism, especially in a revolutionary situation.
Only within the framework of a socialist federation of Latin America can the indigenous people of the continent, with their rich and ancient culture, make up for centuries of oppression, discrimination and genocide, and flourish and reach all their potential development.
MERCOSUR, Free Trade Agreements, and ALBA
The failure of the US government at the Mar del Plata summit, where they could not impose an agreement on the FTAA, together with the announcement of Venezuela's entry into MERCOSUR, appear to have given new life to the idea of Latin American integration side by side with the large imperialist trade blocs of the United States and Europe.
MERCOSUR (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) is an economic bloc created as a customs union, based on the idea of common external tariffs on goods imported from outside the MERCOSUR. However, after the economic crisis which plagued the region at the end of the 1990s, MERCOSUR entered into crisis. And this continues to be the situation in spite of the present economic recovery.
The underlying problem is the trade conflict that sees Brazil and Argentina pitted against each other, and which prompted the latter to impose numerous safeguards and tariffs to limit Brazilian imports into the country. This is in addition to the threats by the Uruguayan and Paraguayan governments to abandon MERCOSUR and to sign their own Free Trade Agreements with the United States, reflecting the scant benefits that the weak Uruguayan and Paraguayan bourgeoisies have been able to obtain from this body. However, the manoeuvres of the US also play a part in all this as it attempts to put a wedge into the MERCOSUR with the aim of breaking it up, to weaken Brazil and hinder its ability to play a leading role in the region.
If MERCOSUR still survives, it is due to two factors. Firstly, it benefits the multinationals operating on both sides of the Brazilian and Argentine border, for they pay lower tariffs when they exchange parts and supplies. Secondly, it is politically useful to the Brazilian bourgeoisie who use MERCOSUR as an economic-political bloc with themselves as the leading power within the region, thus enhancing their political prestige, which they use to demand a role in world diplomacy.
In the long run, the perspectives for MERCOSUR are quite bleak. In the event of a deep global economic recession, which is inevitable - which would have a special impact on the Southern Cone ‑ the present economic and commercial contradictions between Argentina and Brazil will be multiplied a thousandfold, as the market would be drastically cut back, forcing each national bourgeoisie to save itself at the cost of all the others. These tensions, which today have already assumed almost the character of a trade war, would reach unbearable proportions. In such conditions, a very likely outcome would be the break up and disappearance of MERCOSUR.
Venezuela's entry into MERCOSUR will not change this perspective. It must be made clear, that rather than simply seeking economic benefits, Chavez's government is trying to use entry into MERCOSUR as a diplomatic weapon against the manoeuvres of US imperialism to isolate Venezuela internationally.
Another factor associated with the crisis of MERCOSUR is the increase in the inter-capitalist contradictions between Brazil and US imperialism, which reached their maximum expression in Brazil's opposition to the FTAA. Brazil is the economic and military power of Latin America, and is trying to establish itself as a regional imperialist power, and for this it needs to maintain a degree of independence from US imperialism, balancing between it, European imperialism, and China. By opposing the FTAA, it is trying to safeguard the interests of the large Brazilian landowners and direct State contracts to its own national bourgeoisie. The "anti-FTAA" position of the Kirchner government is very similar to this.
In response to this, the United States is forcing the other Latin American countries to sign bilateral Free Trade Agreements. Through these agreements the US is trying to strengthen its own position in the region and put up obstacles to the penetration of European imperialism and nascent Chinese imperialism; and also curtail the hegemonic political and economic aspirations of Brazil within the region. They have already signed bilateral Free Trade Agreements with Peru and Colombia (in addition to those already signed with Mexico, Central America, and Chile), and they are also negotiating one with Ecuador. All this is already provoking numerous mass protests in all of these countries, creating more political and social unrest in the region.
Faced with the predatory character of these imperialist economic treaties, such as the FTAA or the Free Trade Agreements, as an alternative the Chávez government is proposing a mechanism of integration, aid, and solidarity between Latin American countries (ALBA), exchanging oil and other natural resources for food, education services, and healthcare. Some steps forward, with very positive results, have already been made in this in Venezuela and Cuba, and now also in Bolivia. But all this is only a pale reflection of the enormous potential that would open up for the poor masses of Latin America if the resources and economies of these countries were integrated and brought together under a centralized democratically controlled plan. It would be naïve, however, to think that the other Latin American countries, governed by direct or indirect agents of the local bourgeoisie and imperialism, would be interested in agreements of this type.
On a capitalist basis, it is impossible to achieve a genuine union and economic integration of Latin America because of the antagonistic national interests of the local bourgeoisies and of the pressure of imperialism.
The Latin American Revolution
The most advanced region in the world from a revolutionary point of view at the present time is Latin America. There are revolutionary movements developing across the continent. What we are faced with is not the Venezuelan revolution but the Latin American Revolution, an essential link in the chain of the World Revolution. The situations in Ecuador and Bolivia are not unconnected with Venezuela. The American imperialists do not think that, and neither do we. The whole revolutionary process is organically interconnected. The objective conditions for revolution are maturing rapidly everywhere in Latin America. The subjective factor is another matter.
Latin America is therefore the key to the world revolution, and the Venezuelan revolution is the key to the Latin American revolution. That is why US imperialism is determined to crush the Venezuelan revolution before it spreads to other countries. Hugo Chavez has said publicly that Trotsky was right against Stalin when he said that the socialist revolution could not succeed if it remained isolated in one country. The Bolivarian revolution, if it is to succeed, must not halt halfway. It can only succeed by expropriating the landlords and capitalists and then appealing to the workers and peasants of the whole of Latin America and the rest of the world to follow the example of Venezuela.
The Bolivarian revolution, despite its incompleteness, its confusions, its internal contradictions, serves as an example to the rest of Latin America. Chavez has launched a television service, Telesur, which is capable of reaching all of Latin America and even parts of the United States. Washington protests loudly about "interference in the affairs of other countries", while conveniently forgetting that CNN broadcasts its propaganda to the whole world, not to mention other, more direct forms of interference practiced by the CIA all over the world.
The slogan "For a Socialist Federation of Latin America" now acquires a vital importance. The revival of interest on Bolivar's ideas has placed the question of Latin American unity firmly on the agenda. The struggle against the FTAA and the idea of Latin American integration are examples of this and they are generating great expectations amongst the masses in Latin America. The striving for unity on the part of the masses has a revolutionary and anti-imperialist character. The workers and peasants, the revolutionary youth and progressive intelligentsia, rightly conclude that the Balkanisation of Latin America renders it weak and places it at the mercy of US imperialism.
The question that must be asked is: how does it come about that this mighty continent, which is overflowing with minerals, oil, cattle and wheat, and where all the necessary conditions exist for creating a paradise on earth - how does it come about that it has been reduced to a living hell for millions of men and women? For almost two centuries the countries of Latin America have been formally independent. But this so-called independence is merely a fig leaf to cover a slavish dependence on the United States and its giant transnational corporations that have drained the lifeblood of the continent more effectively than a vampire bat.
What is the reason for the prostration of a mighty continent? Only this: that after the death of Simon Bolivar, the oligarchies - the landlords, bankers and capitalists - of Latin America betrayed his dream of a united Latin America and Caribbean and instead divided the living body of the continent into a series of mini-states that had no real reason to exist. The real basis for the slavery of Latin America is its Balkanisation. And the real basis for this Balkanisation is the rule of the oligarchies. No advance is possible unless this situation is abolished. This can only achieved by decisive revolutionary action.
In the theses of the Fourth International "War and the Fourth International" (June 1934) Trotsky wrote:
"South and Central America will be able to tear themselves out of backwardness and enslavement only by uniting all their states into one powerful federation. But it is not the belated South American bourgeoisie, a thoroughly venal agency of foreign imperialism, who will be called upon to solve this task, but the young South American proletariat, the chosen leader of the oppressed masses. The slogan in the struggle against the violence and intrigues of world imperialism and against the bloody work of native comprador cliques is therefore: the United States of South and Central America."
The Marxists are unconditionally in favour of the unification of Latin America, but we propose one amendment to the idea of Bolivar. The last 200 years have proved conclusively that under capitalism there is no possibility of uniting Latin America. Since the death of Simon Bolivar, the corrupt and degenerate bourgeoisie of Latin America have sold their heritage for a mess of pottage. The landlords, bankers and capitalists of Latin America are merely the local office boys of imperialism. They are incapable of playing the same role that was played by the French and English bourgeoisie on the past. They represent a barrier to progress everywhere. This is clearly shown by the conduct of the rotten counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie in Venezuela and their cousins in Bolivia. No progress is possible while economic power remains in the hands of the landlords and capitalists. This power must be broken. The only class that can do this and achieve the goal of Bolivar is the working class. Only when power is in the hands of the workers can the monstrous artificial barriers be torn down and Latin America united - as a Socialist Federation.
A new revolutionary wave
Shakespeare wrote: there is a tide in the affairs of men. These words are equally applicable to the class struggle, which proceeds in ebbs and flows over long historical periods. In the 1970s, there was a major wave of class struggle internationally. Beginning with 1968 in France it swept Europe, affecting one country after another: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Britain. There was a revolution in Pakistan where the working class played the leading role, as in Russia in 1917. There was a revolutionary situation in Chile and Argentina.
In all these countries, the advanced workers felt that power was within their grasp. They were not mistaken. In Portugal, they had the power. The London Times published an editorial article with the title: Capitalism is dead in Portugal. The workers had the power but they lost it because of the conduct of the leadership of the Socialist Party and Communist Party. The same story was later repeated in Spain and Italy, where power was within the grasp of the working class and it slipped through their fingers.
In Pakistan, Bhutto's policies undermined the revolution and led to his own murder and the coming to power of the brutal dictatorship of Zia al Huq. The revolutionary wave in Latin America was derailed in part by reformism, in part by the incorrect tactics of urban guerrillaism. The result was the installation of vicious military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. He movement was thrown back for decades.
At that time the ruling class in "democratic" Europe was preparing for civil war and military dictatorship, not just in Italy but also in Belgium and even in Britain. There were military conspiracies, like the Gladio conspiracy. This is a warning for the next period. Many workers in the advanced capitalist countries think that democracy is something fixed for all time. But when circumstances demand it, the ruling class can change from democracy to dictatorship with the ease of a man changing compartments on a train. The bourgeoisie can tolerate democracy as long as its rule is not threatened, but not otherwise.
In the coming period, there will be an enormous polarisation of society to the left and to the right. Together with the growth of the revolutionary tendency and the class struggle we will also see the growth of fascist and Bonapartist tendencies. The attacks on democratic rights that are being launched in the name of the so-called "war on terror" are merely an anticipation of this fact. But that does not mean that reaction is an immediate perspective. Long before the ruling class moves to open reaction, the working class will have had the chance to change society many times.
Under these conditions, consciousness can change like lightning. It is a general law that consciousness lags behind events. Human consciousness, contrary to the belief of the idealists, is profoundly conservative and resists change and new ideas. But then at a certain point, it catches up with a bang. That is precisely what a revolution is. The consciousness of the working class has lagged behind events for the last 20 years, especially in Europe and the USA. There is an objective reason for this.
When the workers have the chance to take power and fail to take power, it has a profoundly demoralising effect on the class, and especially on its advanced layer. It takes a long time to recover. Part of the problem is that the vanguard of the working class, the people who led the struggle in the decade of the 1970s, the old leadership, has been burnt out and largely destroyed. Even worse, this layer has become an obstacle. They are affected by a mood of depression, pessimism and demoralisation. They have lost hope in the working class and have no perspective.
The economic boom subsequently reinforced these reactionary moods in capitalism in the 1980s and 1990s. The workers' organisations themselves (the unions and the socialist and communist parties) fell even more under the pressure of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology in this period. They become obstacles in the way of changing society. This period set the final seal on the reformist degeneration of the Communist Parties and Social Democrats. Freed from the pressure of the working class, they swung to the right.
For us, these mass parties are not part of the subjective factor but rather part of the objective factor - and a not unimportant part. There was no point of reference for the youth and the most advanced workers. This is a big part of the explanation for the "lag in consciousness". It has become fashionable in the circles of left intellectual snobs to blame everything on the "low level of consciousness of the workers". Incredibly, there are even people in Venezuela today who talk like this. But it is entirely wrong to blame the masses for the failures of the leadership.
For the whole of the last period, not one of the leaders was proposing any programme or perspective of socialism, let alone talking of taking power. The unions were doing nothing, while the bosses were destroying hard-won rights and conditions. The left parties were offering no alternative to bourgeois reactionaries like Thatcher. On the contrary, they were imitating the policies of Thatcher, embracing "new realism" (i.e. market economics) and expelling the Left.
Workers are realists. Under these conditions, when they got no lead from their organisations, they began to look for individual solutions to their problems. The boom in the economy permitted them to increase their living standards, albeit on the basis of an enormous increase in absolute and relative surplus value: longer hours of work, speed-ups, greater intensity of labour, increased productivity, etc.
For a temporary period, they were prepared to accept the tyranny of the bosses, to accept all the impositions: sped-ups, sackings, compulsory overtime, attacks on trade union rights, etc. Seeing no alternative, they put their heads down and proceeded to kill themselves working, with reduced holidays, work at weekends, and long hours of overtime. The longer working hours and the consequent exhaustion after a hard day's labour ruled out participation in the unions or workers' parties. This in turn reinforced the stranglehold of the right wing, which in turn further alienated the workers.
But this search for individual solutions could not last. It has led to the most negative consequences: nervous breakdowns, physical and mental illness, a huge increase in work accidents, etc. The massive increase in absolute and relative surplus value has reached its limits. The capitalists can't squeeze forever. Sooner or later a point is reached when the workers say: enough is enough! Now we see the beginnings of a reaction on the part of the working class, reflected in a wave of strikes internationally. The whole process will turn into its opposite.
A revolutionary perspective
Lenin once wrote an article entitled Inflammable Material in World Politics. There is now plenty of inflammable material around the world. There is not a sector of the world that isn't affected. There are constant shocks and instability: war, terrorism, violence, and crises. What does this reflect? It expresses a fundamental impasse of a socio-economic system that is reaching its historical limits.
Capitalism has reached an impasse. Everywhere we see the symptoms of a terrible decline. Many people see the negative symptoms: the appalling violence and loss of life, the waste and corruption, the injustice and inequality, the cultural bankruptcy and spiritual emptiness. They see all this and despair. But Marxists approach history not sentimentally or moralistically, but scientifically and dialectically.
A boom that destroys employment and is not accompanied by increased living standards but rather with cuts and merciless pressure on the workers has led to a revival of the class struggle everywhere. This is the stage we are passing through: a general reawakening of the working class and an increase in class struggle. From the point of view of the class struggle a deep slump accompanied by high unemployment may cause a reduction in strike levels, but there could be a wave of factory occupations, and people will draw political conclusions - revolutionary conclusions. This is a finished recipe for the class struggle, which at a certain stage must find its reflection within the mass organisations of the class - both the trade unions and the political parties. It opens new and unprecedented opportunities for the Marxist tendency everywhere, provided we work correctly and do not make too many mistakes.
Taken together, all the factors mentioned above offer powerful evidence that we have reached a major turning point in the world situation. The general instability is reflected in sudden and sharp changes in the consciousness of the masses. There is a growing awareness that the present crisis is not something minor or conjunctural, but permanent and deep-seated. The idea gains ground that "something is seriously wrong with the world". What this reflects, in a confused way, is a questioning of the capitalist system itself. The task of the Marxists, the most conscious and resolute section of the class, is to make conscious the unconscious or semi-conscious strivings of the workers to change society.
This idea naturally first expressed itself in a revolt of the mainly middle class youth. It reflected itself in such developments as the anti-globalisation demonstrations, the anti-war demonstrations and movements like the WSF. These movements did not possess any independent significance, but were merely symptoms of the growing crisis of world capitalism. The political confusion of the ideas expressed by these movements, their amorphous character and lack of clarity, perfectly expressed the characteristics of the first stage of the revolution. But now they are being replaced by a far more serious movement, which corresponds to the early awakening of the working class.
The main reason for the delay in the movement of the proletariat is the complete bankruptcy of the leadership of the traditional mass organisations: the Stalinists and Social Democrats. It is the supreme irony of history that, precisely at the moment when the pendulum is swinging sharply to the left, all these people have decided to abandon socialism and embrace class collaboration and "moderation". Blair is only the most obvious example of this. But to a greater or lesser degree, all the other "socialist" and "communist" leaders are rushing down the same road. This at a time when the workers and youth are demanding a radical solution to their problems.
There are the beginnings of a change in the international situation. Of course, it is impossible to be precise about timing, except to say that it will be relatively prolonged. The reason for the protracted nature of the period is, on the one hand, the profound crisis of the system and the weakness of the forces of reaction, on the other hand, the absence of the subjective factor: the crisis of leadership of the proletariat. This means that the situation can be prolonged for years, with ebbs and flows.
In every country the rhythm of the class struggle is accelerating. It will not unfold in a straight line. Periods of advance will be followed by periods of tiredness, apathy, defeats, and even reaction. Every defeat will be only the prelude to new struggles, until there is a final decision one way or another. Time and again the working class will move to change society. This will lead to the emergence of revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations in one country after another. Inevitably the question of power will be posed. In Latin America it is a fact already.
It is the duty of the Marxists to provide this clarity, to explain to the workers what is necessary, to correct the mistakes and defend the correct programme and strategy. But this cannot be done by sectarian pontificating from the sidelines. A correct programme is absolutely necessary, but this by no means exhausts the problem. It is necessary to find a road to the masses, to establish links with them, to create the conditions for a fruitful dialogue between the Marxists and the workers, beginning with the most active and conscious elements (the proletarian vanguard). And it should not be necessary to point out that in order to reach the masses, it is necessary to go wherever the masses are.
The reason for our successes is the power of our ideas: the ideas of Marxism. Marxist theory is an extraordinarily powerful tool. It alone enables us to create the cadres who can connect with the advanced guard of the workers and youth, who in turn will link us indissolubly to the masses. In this way we are building the forces necessary to carry through the world revolution. However, ideas in themselves are not enough. We must have the will to succeed in the battle we have before us: the main task is to build the International Marxist Tendency.
We must recruit and educate the cadres from the revolutionary youth, the militant workers and the best of the older generation of fighters who have retained their fighting spirit and class-consciousness. In order to build the revolutionary current a bold attitude is needed. In a revolutionary tendency there is no room for scepticism. The leadership must set the correct tone; we must educate the ranks in the spirit of revolutionary optimism. We must build the forces of Marxism on a world scale. This work will eventually be crowned with success. Sooner or later the working class will come to power in one country or another. The victory of the proletariat in just one country will transform the whole situation on a world scale.
See also Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four