We are certain that humanity is capable of recovering from the many evils that afflict it today, but only through a radical change in the world’s economic and social order.
Essentially, a global revolution is required to deal effectively with the many pressing problems on the agenda: from the oppression of women to the devastation of the environment, from widespread poverty and war to forced migration, from the health emergency to the crisis in education and training, just to name the main ones. Unfortunately, no reform within capitalism will be able to cope with these tragedies. As extreme as it might seem, it is a fact: only revolution can really change things.
All over the world, the ruling classes and their governments of Right, Centre and Left (even the “extreme” kind like Syriza in Greece), always and only defend the preservation of the system by attempting the impossible: managing its increasingly strident contradictions.
That revolution must be:
Proletarian: because the motive force for the change that’s required resides in the millions and millions of wage workers (stable, precarious, underemployed or unemployed) who create, produce, transform, transport everything. It is only thanks to their work, and thus their exploitation across the whole world, that capitalism continues to survive its own contradictions. Thus it is us alone who can really overthrow it. But first the sense, the possibility, the confidence, that there is an alternative to this system based on exploitation of workers for the employer’s profit has to circulate again in our class.
Communist: since only workers’ power in “the finally discovered political form” (Karl Marx) of councils opens up the possibility of socialising the means of production and resources of the planet. Only then will work no longer be a question of exploitation, of one class controlling the product of our daily labour, but a matter of cooperative effort for the common well-being; so that production is no longer of commodities to make a profit but of goods aimed at satisfying individual and collective needs; so that everyone has a home, care when needed, education, the possibility of realising themselves as human beings; all in the context of full respect for the natural environment and its delicate balances and ecosystems.
In short, our political goal, communism, is a society where:
Technological progress is supposed to free humanity from the slavery of physical labour, thus allowing more free time to cultivate intellectual and spiritual growth. But capital produces only and exclusively for profit so technological progress within capitalism can only mean increased exploitation, unemployment, oppression, greater control of the workforce and enslavement to the machine. This is the essence of capitalism: the use of technology not to free human beings, but to enslave them more and more, not to harmonise production with the environment, but to destroy nature more and more intensively, not to improve the quality of life of the world population, but produce monetary, trade and shooting wars … part of the anarchy of a system that cyclically produces economic crises.
Crises are now a fact of life. In fact no one has any illusion that, one day, there will be a real economic recovery for us and for our children. Rather, it is becoming more and more obvious that, not only does capital no longer have anything better to offer us, it is also unable to control the crises it regularly produces. Capital only knows one path: make the poor and the powerless pay for the crisis, starting with wage workers, with cuts, sacrifices, precariousness and intensification of exploitation.
This latest Covid crisis is proving it for the umpteenth time and with extreme clarity that capitalism is the greatest obstacle to the future of humanity! Hence the problem of overcoming capitalism must be placed at the centre of any political discourse.
In order to develop its struggles against the aggression of capital, that is, to increase the awareness of being a social class that is antagonistic to capitalism and potentially revolutionary, to acquire confidence in the possibility of creating a new society, our class — the working class — needs a political and organisational tool. This tool is the class party. Building the class party, or at least its first nuclei, is the urgent task that all revolutionaries must set themselves today. To face this task, strengthened by the lessons of the history of the revolutionary and class movement, let’s set the frame for the phase we are living through.
We are living through the longest and deepest period of economic stagnation that capitalism has ever experienced. Covid has plunged us back into the nightmare of an endless recession even before there was a recovery from the 2008 crisis. This would have led to total economic collapse and the outbreak of a new world war if two, apparently separate yet closely intertwined, factors had not intervened: 1) capitalism’s ability to react through its central banks, which promptly supported the economy with an unprecedented injection of liquidity; 2) the substantial passivity of the working class which, for decades and with few and rare exceptions, has allowed the capitalists to agree on the different economic policies among themselves without that third factor – a combative working class – ever putting a spanner in their works, to bring the system to its knees.
Capitalism, headed by the largest companies, who since the beginning of the pandemic have seen their already substantial fortunes increase further, has refined its skills in managing crises over decades. The capitalists have learned from their experience (something we as a class should copy). At the outbreak of the Covid crisis, central banks promptly intervened, with the most colossal injection of monetary credit to banks and large corporations in economic history: the IMF announced in November 2020 that the financial injection by central banks was already $19.5 trillion, or almost a fifth of world GDP, almost equal to the annual GDP of the USA!
This immense amount of money is being disbursed if not at negative interest rates, then at rates close to zero, which has literally drugged the buying and selling of global financial securities (shares, bonds, derivatives, funds …), to the point that despite the very heavy economic crisis, the main financial markets (starting with Wall Street) thanked the central banks and ended 2020 with record rises! Champagne and caviar over the bodies of the hundreds of millions who lost their jobs and/or fell ill with Covid: capitalism walks on the dead.
Beyond the grotesque, the fact is that only a fraction of this enormous credit is entering production. Why? Because the world economy is plagued by such a low rate of profit that the development of the means of production, i.e. their increased productivity, has been used to exploit workers to the point where we are today: which is to increasingly throw them on the streets, since the investment required is too expensive. This is especially the case during the Covid lockdowns when the economy is hardly moving and financial speculation offers much easier gains, at least in the short term. So the capital that was supposed to be invested in the “real” economy remains in the financial sphere whilst another speculative bubble is growing hand in hand with the debt. Credit injections are only creating the conditions for future, even more devastating, economic crises.
Capitalist crisis and imperialist competition go hand in hand. They are leading to bloody conflict across the whole world, from the borders of the ex-USSR to sub-Saharan Africa and down the new Silk Road, from the Middle East to the South China Sea … The fires of proxy war never go out but flare up in new areas all the time. Unspeakable horrors are committed daily in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Tigray, and many other places far from the eyes of the global media circus. Most of these are proxy wars, financed and armed by the major powers. The USA remains the dominant super power but increasingly faces dangerous new challenges, and a trade war and an arms race with China is already underway. Generalised imperialist war is the ultimate resort of a decadent capitalism in crisis.
The roots of the current crisis go back 50 years. When the US abandoned the Bretton Woods agreement on 15 August 1971, it opened the way to the debt and the production of fictitious capital that we see today. The mass of global public and private debt has continued to grow, increasing in periods of crisis, but never completely paid off in periods of recovery. The mass of circulating financial capital is now more than ten times greater than the real value of the commodities it is supposed to represent. The rate of profit has fallen so low that speculation is more attractive than productive investment. This whole hellish cycle rests on the exploited shoulders of the international proletariat which, fortunately for the ruling classes, is not putting up much of a fight and remains largely politically passive.
Our class has been on the retreat for decades, slowly losing ground in one way or another. In the old centres of capitalism large concentrations of production were dismantled and relocated to other areas of the planet, where labour costs less. In the traditional heartlands of capitalism the working class has been broken up and dispersed, while in the periphery it is concentrated in large units of production where, however, it lacks experience and a tradition of political struggle.
In 2020, while the world’s 2,200 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by 27.5%, at least 400 million workers lost their jobs and over 130 million people were suddenly thrown into nightmare of permanent poverty. By the end of 2022, the IMF has forecast an average wage cut of at least 10% for “Western” workers. It is even worse for the rest of the planet, where 2 billion of the world’s population live hand to mouth in the “informal economy”. The World Food Program predicts that “three dozen countries” are about to suffer famine.
The economic and social situation, on the other hand, in many countries is only temporarily supported by state aid and furlough measures. However “fire and rehire” (on more precarious conditions) is already being used to cut wages, whilst thousands more companies are just waiting to have a free hand to lay off others. Indonesia, and other peripheral countries, are already enacting “more flexible” labour legislation to encourage future investments. In the immediate term the recovery of the capitalist economy has in fact only one option: to cut labour costs. Predictably, in the next few years we will see, if not a collapse, certainly a “non-recovery” of the lost jobs; in short, any “recovery” will be long and heavy, and the weight of it will be borne by workers.
The most disadvantaged sectors of the working class will pay the most: women who are often the first to be fired and who suffer humiliating conditions of disadvantage as well as lower wages and job security everywhere in the world, and migrants who are the poorest sector of the class and can be easily blackmailed. At the same time, however, they may well be pushed into starting the fightback and from there new episodes of the class struggle can emerge, to which other workers can join.
The young people most exposed to the ferocious dictatorship of precarity deserve particular consideration, as they struggle to find work, and are increasingly disoriented and isolated. An entire generation is growing up at the mercy of this nightmare called capitalism which promotes psychological disorders and a sense of hopelessness. We must fight for these new generations too, to give them a prospect of a change that is truly worth committing to.
On the other hand, the global system, instead of investing in infrastructure, transport, or health and education, has preferred to more or less ignore the causes that have produced and favoured the spread of the virus. They have bet everything on closing only the least profitable firms and on the vaccine business. In addition to the massacre that has occurred through the most “fragile” sectors of the population (starting with the lower classes, the proletariat), psychological damage on a social level is not far behind.
Although today the working class appears defeated, isolated and dispersed – and this is a big problem for revolutionaries – there are some signs that should not be underestimated. 2019 saw global uprisings from South America to the Middle East to Europe. Even in the pandemic there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of strikes across the world against unsafe working and wage cuts. “Civil unrest is surging” (World Food Program). The working class has not gone away.
In the movement after the murder of George Floyd in the USA there was an unprecedented unity of black and white workers before the whole thing was corralled back into the cul-de-sac of identity politics. These movements get recuperated by utopian projects to reform capitalism, without ever posing the central theme of overcoming capitalism. Neo-reformism, with its interclass propaganda for bourgeois rights, the redistribution of wealth, the ideals of social justice, Universal Basic Income, and so on, is the new face of the old reformism which has always helped contain the class struggle. Legitimate grandson of the ideologies (Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism) produced by the counter-revolution, and which legitimised it, neo-reformism has adopted the idea of the old reformist demands of the minimum programme of the Second International to recycle the idea that there can be a capitalism with a human face; that another world is possible, but without a revolution, that is, without abolishing the capital-wage labour relationship.
Sure, history — even recent history — of the class struggle teaches us that new forms of protest are possible and that the evolution of this historical crisis will lead to ever larger movements. But it also teaches us that so long as these movements do not find within them a revolutionary and internationalist focus, the movement itself will end up ebbing away to another sterile defeat for our class.
We therefore invite all genuinely revolutionary elements to make contact and discuss with our comrades. We, standing in the tradition of the Communist Left, offer a platform that has emerged from the critical balance of two centuries of inspiring battles and tragic defeats of our class. Many younger workers around the world are beginning to rally to us in order to confront the burning challenges that we face. Our aim is to contribute to a new international, a revolutionary political leadership rooted in the working class today, in preparation for the struggles to come.
If you agree, get in touch! The time is now!
Internationalist Communist Tendency
May Day 2021