Drafted by Christian Castillo, passed by the CC of the PTS on October 17, 1998.
It has been nine months now since the PTS leadership issued a document titled “Strategic lessons and programmatic basis to advance in the rebuilding of the IV International” (dated January 27, 1998), which was then passed by the whole Trotskyist Faction (International Strategy) in its co-ordinating meeting of June this year. The rotten conditions of imperialist capitalism have only worsened since then, bringing about increased misery, poverty and unemployment for million of workers in its wake.
With the outbreak of the crisis, not only the mumbo jumbo about a renewed growth phase of “globalised capitalism” has crumbled –which so many leftists had adopted as their own! The current crisis also tore down the “achievements” world imperialism boasted on. In the first part of this draft we are going to set out the relationship between these conditions and the situation of the working class, as they appear on the eve of the XXI century. In the second part, we try to set out the programmatic foundations that should enable us to give a revolutionary response to the tasks of our time: we try to give an “arithmetic” formulation to the “algebra” of the Transitional Programme written by Trotsky, i.e., taking up his method to respond to the current challenges, we point out that the crisis is posing the urgent need for workers power to find a way out of the capitalist catastrophe. This draft was passed by the Central Committee of the PTS of Argentina in its October 17, 1998 meeting – and Christian Castillo wrote the final draft. It was then submitted for the discussion and approval or amendments of the next party congress, and also the aggregates and conferences of the different groups of the Trotskyist Faction (IS).
1.a) The objective rotten conditions of capitalism
The extent of the capitalist crisis extent constitutes a major leap in the “accumulation crisis” that has been shaking the world economy since the early 70s, which had already peaked with the debt crisis in 1982, the Wall Street crash in 1987, the Japanese banking crisis in the 90s, the collapse of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, and the Mexican “tequila crisis” by the end of 1994. We are now seeing the deepening decomposition of an imperialist capitalism standing on a sea of debts that has witnessed a huge increase in speculative businesses in the last fifteen years. The current crisis surpasses that of 1973-75 both in its depth and scope; as the world imperialist press says, it can only be compared with the depression of the 30s – although for now it has not got as serious as that. Since its onset in South East Asia, the crisis has spread worldwide, though unevenly, with catastrophic effects for the world economy.
The collapse of the Asian miracle
The South East Asian “miracle” has collapsed, and the dream that poor countries could become powerful capitalist powers has also come down with it. The sinking of this region is abysmal. The situation there can only be compared with the 1929-32 great depression. Unemployment soared from 2,6% to 10% in South Korea, it doubled in Thailand and in Indonesia it went from 2% up to 15%. More than half of the population in Indonesia is living below the poverty line: official reports speak of 17 million families, about 90 million people who can only get a meal of rice a day. The fall of the GNP is estimated at 15%! for this year, and between 6-7% in Thailand and South Korea. (The Economist, Sept. 5) And there is still worse to come. As it has been the case through the XX Century, it has been shown again that under the rule of imperialist monopolies, “economic miracles” in the semicolonial countries are short lived. After being the main outlet for world capitalist investment for a decade and a half, bourgeois analysts themselves claim today that many more productive forces should be destroyed in the region. “ING Barings recognizes that to attain equilibrium, 78% of the whole manufacturing capacity of Indonesia, 77% of it in South Korea, 64% in Malaysia and Thailand, should be sacrificed” (Far Eastern Economic Review, October 1).
Dark clouds are looming over China also. Unemployment has grown above 10% since the onset of the crisis. Its economy is expected to grow only above 5%, after having double-digit growth in the last few years. Most state enterprises are bankrupt in fact. Banks are literally bankrupt too.
Japan, the second world economy in free fall
Second, we have the crisis of Japan. In the 80s, Japan looked poised to become a serious challenger to US hegemony; now it has stagnated for the last eight years, and in spite of a steady injection of state funds, it has to failed to recover. Between April and June, its GNP contracted to a 3,3% annual rate, its third consecutive quarter of decline. Japanese banks are bankrupt: their bad debts amount to 30% of the GNP. Only the massive state-sponsored bail outs have prevented a generalized bankruptcy. The last package announced in early October is worth above half a billion dollars! of state funds, to stave off the collapse of the banking system, so that the 19 banks that concentrate 70% of banking assets do not go bust. And there is no guarantee that this should stop the Japanese economy from falling still further. Compare this figure with the 60 billion dollars poured into the Marshall Plan (calculated at constant values), and you will get a clear picture of the figures involved in this financial operation.
Russia and the farewell to the pipe dreams of a “peaceful” restoration of capitalism
In third place, the crisis has done away with the illusion of a peaceful restoration of capitalism. With the rouble devaluation on August 17, the restoration process lies in tatters. Million of workers have not been paid for months, the same happens even with the police and the army. Barter has become the habitual way of change in most sectors of the economy, which has led the Foreign Affairs magazine to say that Russia is “a non monetary capitalist economy” (sic). Unemployment, already around 11,5%, is now growing. In Moscow alone, there are 300.000 new unemployed since the onset of the crisis. Inflation is expected to rise up to 300% by the end of the year. Social inequality has increased enormously. The richest 10% of the population earns 60 times more than the poorest 10%. It is estimated that the “new rich” have stashed away about 150 billion dollars abroad in the last few years.
From “emerging” to “submerging” markets
In fourth place, the so-called Latin American “emerging markets” of the 90s, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, especially the first one, are being harassed by the international speculators and by the drop in the prices of raw materials (they have fallen a third since the onset of the crisis). Meanwhile, a strong recession is crippling their economies and they have to deal with a huge public borrowing. More than 50 billion dollars flew away from Brazil since the onset of the crisis, and its industry is crippled by the slump. Argentina, whose economic dynamic sectors depend greatly from exports to Brazil, has also seen a drop in the industrial production rates. All analysts expect an increase in the already very high unemployment rates. The perspective is one of a worse rerun of the recession endured in the aftermath of the 1994-95 “tequila crisis” that resulted in millions of unemployed in the region.
Recession knocks at the door of the US economy
Contrary to the claims of those who a year before said it would remain untouched by the crisis, the US is probably heading for a recession. The forecasts by investment consultants speak of this (who for the first time predict a recession instead of a “slowdown”), and also the US Federal Reserve was forced to cut interest rates a fourth of a point on October 15 –the second in a fortnight. For the first time, this was done untimely, to stave off the bankruptcy of several investment funds and inject ready money in the US stock market. Early October a high-risk investment fund -the Long Term Capital Management- had to be bailed out, since its eventual bankruptcy would lead to the fall of several banks.
Europe is not immunized against the crisis
Europe, up to now the region of the world less directly affected, is not immune in any way. This region registered a sluggish growth during the 90s and it was just beginning to recover. All growth forecasts have been lowered now. German banks were affected by the Russian crisis, country to which they are its principal creditors. The Frankfurt, Paris and Madrid stock exchanges endured significant drops in the last months. All Europe will see a slowdown in its already low growth. If the American economy slips into recession, it will send shock waves through the European unification process.
The end of the “neo-liberal cycle”
In the last decades, since the 80s and particularly during the (American) “prosperity” in the 90s, the tendencies to uneven development, to greater interimperialist competence (formation of blocks) and to the decomposition of capital expressed in the enormous growth of financial parasitism, have all been exacerbated. Let us see some examples of this. Ninety nine per cent of the trillion dollars traded daily in the world markets is made up of speculative operations, against only a 1% corresponding to world trade. Bank assets abroad have quadruplicated since 1980, from 1,836 trillions to more than 8 trillions. The Dow Jones index of the New York Stock Exchange has soared from 3000 to a top 9000 points under Clinton’s government. In sum, a great source of super benefits has been developed, due to the obstacles standing against the valorization of capital in the productive process. And while Wall Street soared, the Nikkei index dropped from its 48000 point-peak earlier in the decade, to 13500 by mid October 1998, clearly expressing the Japanese decline during the 90s, showing how the ascent of a given power is done at the expense of a great loss of positions by another one, in the narrow framework of the world economy.
If the imperialist epoch means an increase of the anarchic, chaotic and irrational features of capitalism, these tendencies are extreme to paroxysm nowadays. The fact that a bunch of speculators (not only the “bad” and “irresponsible” ones from the investment funds, but the “respectable” big imperialist banks as well) have the power of taking away thousand millions dollars in a day from a country and provoking its collapse is just an expression that the system is in an acute crisis and deserves death. As the crisis unfolded, the same “gurus” of world politics and finance have grown afraid of their own creation, and fearful of being brought down in the fall, are demanding “some kind of control” over the more volatile capitals. Positively, the consequences of a banking and a stock market crash like that of 1929, would be would be much more devastating today than back in the 30s. But if yesterday’s belief that unlimited deregulation was a panacea for capital to overcome its “accumulation crisis” was just a pipedream, today’s idea that a bit of control should work out wonderfully, is likewise ridiculous, because the current crisis has its roots in the exhaustion of the so called “neo-liberal cycle”. This end of cycle is revealing itself as a crisis of overproduction of goods on one hand, and over-accumulation of capitals on the other, with its epicentre located in the region presented as the epitome of “capitalist success” up to yesterday: South East Asia. Furthermore, it has knocked off the most dynamic companies in the last years, i.e., chips and car-making branches.
The current crisis sharpens the rotting of imperialist capitalism
From a more general point of view, the current crisis reflects the exacerbation of capitalism’s paramount contradiction, i.e., one between the growing socialization of production and the private appropriation of social wealth under the rule of monopolies. It also speaks of the impossibility for the productive forces to have an harmonious development in the even more narrow framework of capitalist property relationships.
Back in 1940, Trotsky pointed out that “above the great extensions of land, well beyond the technical wonders, which have even conquested the skies for men, the bourgeoisie has made the planet a filthy and gloomy prisonhouse”. Fifty years later, we could say today that while the modern wonders of information technology (the Internet!), biotechnology and genetic engineering all herald an enormous potential to increase the material wealth of all humanity and finish off exploitation, oppression and alienation all alike, the dominion of 700 capitalist corporations over the world economy is just leading the world to an endless increase of unemployment, precarious work, poverty, misery and to an irrational destruction of natural resources. When the annual grain harvest (a rate of daily 946 grams per person) would be enough to end with famine in the whole world, capitalism’s insanity leads 40 million people to die from starvation yearly. According to the International Labor Organization, the crisis has already caused new 10 million unemployed in South East Asia, added to the 820 million existing in the world (35 million only in the European Union), almost a third of productive-aged people. There are above three billion poor in the world, with a billion directly starving to death. However, this phenomenon affects not only the semicolonial countries. In the European Union, 44 million people live in poverty. In the USA, likewise, 10% of the white population and 31% of the black population live in poverty. In the last ten years, the income of the 20% top-richest population has increased 62% in the US, while that of the 20% poorest population has dropped 14% over the same period of time. The multimillionaire’s wealth has grown exorbitantly. According to Forbes magazine, Bill Gates’ wealth (the Microsoft Corp. magnate) amounts to 58.4 billion dollars and the Walton family’s (owners of the Wal-Mart stores) is worth 48 billion. Uneven development has been intensified. Consumption in the richest countries is 400 times higher as to that of the poorest countries: a Swiss citizen consumes in one day more than a Mozambican in a year. Imperialist capitalism has given too many reasons as to why it deserves to die.
The exacerbation of these conditions brought about by the crisis is fueling the “ideological reversion” of neoliberalism, and is also undoing the bourgeoisie’s exultation typical of the early 90s, legitimating in turn the perspective of proletarian revolution and socialism alike in the eyes of millions worlwide.
The perplexity of the bourgeoisie’s “general staff”
The ruling classes have been shocked and crippled by the crisis, which highlights how deep-going the latter is. The “new” political responses delivered by the bourgeoisie and its agents (like the proclaimed “third way”) can in no way ameliorate the sharp contradictions running through the class struggle worldwide. The world bourgeoisie itself was forced to admit the debacle brought about by “neo-liberal” policies in the last and a half decade. The “neo-liberal creed” which proclaimed there would be unlimited growth thanks to privatization, opening to capital flows and cutbacks of social welfare, has been exposed as a sham through and through, as it had already happened with the “Keynesian creed” by the mid 70s. Back then, the crisis found the states burdened with massive debts as a result of the illusion holding that boosting demand with public funds would suffice to bring about a ceaseless growth. Both the IMF and the World Bank, the supreme apostles of the “neoliberal” offensive worlwide, are today being questioned from the left and from the right. There has been a frenzy of meetings gathering the upper echelons of imperialist politics and finance, and everybody is talking of common measures to hold back the crisis. Nevertheless, the governments of the big powers just have a much narrower room for political and economical maneuver left to mount “bail-outs” to save the big banks and the investors’ businesses alike.
Some sectors of the American establishment went on to say that the best thing to do is just let big corporations go to bankruptcy, and that the IMF should give up on “bail-outs” that just underpin unprofitable businesses. There are also those more realistic, who fear the collapse of some sectors might spark off a mass upsurge and bring about the generalized demise of capitalism. With the perspective of a real crack looming ahead, the bail-out of both banks and investment funds sponsored by the states seek to prevent such catastrophe. All in all, the day of reckoning has come for the myth about “the end of the national states”. As it has already happened with every crisis in the last few years, the big bourgeoisie is now demanding that the states and “international organizations” alike should hike taxes to workers and cut down on social expenses, to earmark the funds necessary to save them from bankruptcy. Marx’s definition of the modern state as an “executive board of the businesses of the bourgeoisie” remains more validated than ever. The proletariat shall smash the bourgeois machine through proletarian revolution .
The crisis of imperialist rule
The quantum leap in the economic crisis has deepened the crisis of imperialist rule. Far from the nonsense claiming globalization should lead to a “world government”, the already growing rivalry between different imperialist countries, is intensifying even more due to the crisis: the US has urged Japan to “cleanse” its financial system, and it also pressured Europe to cut interest rates, provoking also rows about agricultural goods prices.
In addition, the fact is that ever since the demise of world Stalinism, which acted as a mainstay of the “Yalta order” together with the US, the Yankees have been forced to cope by themselves with the “hot spots” of the world threatening imperialist order. Contrary to a view that became common sense for most in the left, the downfall of Stalinism makes it harder, not easier, for US imperialism to uphold its hegemony.
We are heading to a period of heightened class struggle
With the worsening of the world crisis, the class struggle has become harsher too. In May and June, revolutionary days rocked Indonesia, ousting dictator Suharto. In South Korea, workers at the car “chaebol” Hyundai have been at the head of harsh walk-outs against dismissals. Latin America had witnessed a wave of violent workers’ demonstrations, as seen in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, with a general strike of state workers in the latter. In Chile, in turn, the teachers and professors walked out demanding a pay rise, a fifteen day-long fight in which 60.000 workers protested in Santiago. In France, 500.000 high school students took part in a demonstration nationwide that was part of a strike demanding more teachers and better educational conditions.
However, the class struggle unfolds unevenly in the different regions and countries, and much slower than the rottening conditions of capitalism. The response of the masses as a whole has not been up to the crisis yet.
We are going through one of those periods when the irrationality of the rule of imperialist monopolies over the world economy is made clear for millions, who see their everyday plight increase tenfold. This is a time when the “maturity” of objective conditions of capitalist rot is heralding the massive convulsions which have characterized the twentieth century: crises, wars, revolutions -although they have not become the dominant elements in the world political situation and the subjective response of the masses still lags behind thus far. We must strategically ready ourselves for a coming period of great revolutionary and counterrevolutionary developments -as we can see today in Indonesia and in Kosovo respectively- that will set “objective” factors in tune with “subjective” ones.
In these conditions, we should respond to these events with a correct strategy, taking steps towards rebuilding the World Party of Social Revolution, i.e., try to overcome the acute crisis of revolutionary leadership of the world working class. Trotsky’s dictum: “the historical crisis of humanity reduces itself to the crisis of revolutionary leadership” remained true throughout almost all the epoch of revolutions, wars and crises (maybe with the exception of the first years of the Third International). Today, when workers worlwide are threatened with a real catastrophe (with millions of them already suffering it in their flesh and bone) it shows once again its entire validity. We need to raise an independent proletarian strategy to make capitalists pay for the costs of the crisis.
War and revolution
No matter the crisis has brought an increasing interimperialist competition, the tendencies of the political situation worldwide do not still resemble those ushered in by the global depression in the ´30s, which led Trotsky already in 1934 to conclude that the world was heading to a new interimperialist war were unless a series of victorious proletarian revolutions blocked that course. However, although events like a generalized world depression would qualitatively boost tendencies to war, the unrivalled American supremacy remains a major deterrent to rival powers that might challenge its military hegemony. But this does not entail a “peaceful” global scenario or anything of the sort. The whole year 1998 was characterized by increased war-mongering by the imperialist powers in general, and US imperialism in particular, against the oppressed nations of the world. There were also several local confrontations. The United States bombed Sudan and Afghanistan back in August, after being on the verge of launching a massive attack on Iraq last February.
Meanwhile in Kosovo, the butcher Milosevic, with the go-ahead of imperialism, is carrying out a true genocide of the Albanian people, a rerun of the atrocities committed in Bosnia. Nowadays, there are 35.000 NATO troops propping up the Dayton Agreements that consecrated the partition of Bosnia at the hands of greater Serbian and greater Croatian chauvinist bureaucracies. Poverty-ridden countries like India and Pakistan have joined in the nuclear arms race, exacerbated by the Chinese restorationist bureaucracy, which uses Pakistan as a proxy for furthering its interests in the region. North Korea has launched missiles that flew over Japan, reopening the debate about the “re-arming” of Japan. Japan’s military budget is the world’s second after that of the U.S.
Meanwhile, several countries in Africa, particularly those of the region of the big lakes are enmeshed in a bloodbath of regional wars, largely motivated by the disputes on areas of influence between France, the old regional master, and the U.S.
These tendencies will just intensify in forthcoming years. Only the concerted action of the world working class can stop the warmongering coming from the rottenning of world capitalism.
1. b) The role of counter-revolutionary leaderships
Despite having been seriously weakened after caving in to the capitalist offensive in the 80s and early 90s, the counter-revolutionary leaderships in the labor movement, however, still managed to deviate the wake of struggles that broke out, as part of the counteroffensive sweeping through several countries since the outbreak of the state workers’ strike in France in November-December of 1995. In Europe, where important class battles have been taking place since 1993 onwards, these actions by workers ended up being expropriated by Social Democracy and, to a lesser extent, by recycled Communist parties that managed to capitalize at the ballot box from labor and popular discontent with rightwing parties. Social Democratic parties, (less and less) workers’ and (more and more) bourgeois machineries, have gone into office in 13 of 15 countries of the European Union, turned out to be as loyal defenders of their respective “national” monopolies’ businesses as their right-wing predecessors. In Blair’s Britain and Jospin ‘s France, the capitalists’ rate of profits soared more than under Major or Juppè, while they have pushed ahead with unemployment, precarious jobs, privatization, cuts in social welfare and tax breaks for the rich. The same applies to the recently ousted Prodi government that succeeded in making the Italian working class pay the price of the necessary budgetary cutbacks needed to adapt the Italian economy to Maastricht criteria, or the Swedish Social Democracy, that pushed ahead with social welfare cuts in line with “neoliberal” policies. The various trade union bureaucracies, in turn, prevented the movement from going for a political general strike to kick out the anti-working class governments, as it had already happened in France in ’95. They are direct collaborators of the “social- imperialist” governments in Europe. In Britain, the TUC held down British workers, to let “Tory” Blair push ahead with his attacks. Thus, they were prevented from getting back what they lost under the conservative governments. In France, bureaucrats from the various trade union federations actively supported the 35 hours law, that was eventually passed by the “plural left” government, turning the fair labor demand for the reduction of the working week against unemployment into the capitalists’ instrument to impose causalisation. In Germany, the bureaucracy is radying to sign the “tripartite pact” granting social peace to the Schröder government in return for a seat in the cabinet for the IG Metall leader.
The recycled communist parties have proved to be also lackeys of the interests of the capitalists. No matter they keep or change their name, these parties have completed the turn initiated under the auspices of “Euro Communism”. From a transmission belt of the counter-revolutionary policy ordered from Moscow, they have now become the willing agents of the counter-revolutionary policy dictated by their own imperialist regimes. In certain cases they have become part of the government together with Social Democracy, as in France (where the PCF has said that “the market is no longer taboo for us”, defending the “plural left” government’s privatizations, condemning the strikes and demonstrations of the “sans papiers” immigrants and also those of Air France’s pilots during this year’s soccer World Cup). The likelihood exists that the PDS will get control of several “länder” in East Germany, with similar results. In other countries, e.g. Italy, they prop up the government, as it has been the case of the Communist Refoundation Party, or else as it might happen with the Swedish Left Party. These parties, have gained new forces due to Social Democracy’s right turn, leading the mass and vanguard layers they influence to the dead end of a mild reformism. Centrist organizations that speak on behalf of Trotskyism, in turn, adapt themselves and cave in to these parties.
The derailment of mass actions in Latin America has resulted in the strengthening of alliances or coalitions mostly led by openly bourgeois parties, that will push ahead with privatizations, the attack on labor conquests and submission to imperialism all alike. Mainly peasant leaderships have sprung up to their left. These, the Brazilian MST or the Mexican EZLN among them, subordinate peasant struggles to bourgeois parties or “center-left” “opposition” coalitions as the Mexican PRD or the People’s Unity Front in Brazil. In some countries, the communist parties have gained a new lease of life (either those coming from the “Soviet” trunk or those of Maoist origin). They have prevented the masses from going beyond the limits imposed by bourgeois “oppositions” (and in Chile by the “Concertación” government). This has been the case of the Chilean Communist Party, the PC do B in Brazil or the Maoists in Ecuador.
However, all of them stand little chances to stabilize, given the extent of the crisis. The cancer of world capitalism cannot be treated with the aspirins proposed by “third way” supporters, or else with aspirins plus some medicine, as proposed by recycled “communists”. The “Third Way” socialdemocratic governments and the mild reformism of the “modernized” communist parties can only uphold provided the crisis does not get worse. It is not by chance that they have thrived in Europe, thus far the continent leass directly hit by the crisis. The capitalist cancer needs to be extirpated with major surgery. That cannot be other than world proletarian revolution.
Both socialdemocratic governments and the increased counter-revolutionary collaboration between socialdemocrats and former Stalinists have managed to derail the mass counteroffensive. However, we are not witnessing in Europe the emergence of classic popular fronts yet. Fully-fledged bigfrontism is, together with Fascism, the “penultimate recourse of the bourgeoisie to avoid the proletarian revolution” (Trotsky). Likewise, the counter-revolutionary preparations made by the xenophobic and racist currents do not herald yet the open action of these parties as fully- fledged Fascist groups. In a way, the communist parties are setting the scene so that if the masses veer to the left, they can be channeled through by “popular fronts”, i.e., contained by means of the trap of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie.
The time has not come either for the emergence of mass centrist parties -which waver between revolution and reform. Revolutionaries should be willing to intervene in them, to divide them, winning over those sectors that honestly orienting themselves towards revolution for a coherent proletarian and internationalist, Trotskyist, strategy.
Those regions where revolution and counterrevolution have hit are an anticipation of things to come. In Indonesia, where the fall of Suharto has not stopped the mass upsurge, the popular frontist policies of class collaboration raised by the PRD have improved the lot of the movement led by former president Sukarno’s daughter, a rerun of the same tactics which led the Indonesian revolution in 1965 to a catastrophe. In the Balkans, a new ethnic genocide against the pro-independence Albanian majority of the province of Kosovo is under way. The butcher Milosevic has counted on the go-ahead given by the imperialist powers. It is in these conditions that a revolutionary party of the world proletarian vanguard should be forged.
Today’s centrism is one of a special type, one that which claims to be Trotskyist, but has in fact replaced the program and method of Trotskyism for a strategy of pressuring on reformist leaderships. Today, they adapt themselves to reformism in Europe and to the populist rural leaderships in Latin America. Let us take as an example of this political opportunism those currents from “Trotskyist” centrism that influence the working class vanguard in their countries. In France, while the world crisis sweeps the whole planet, the only concern of the “Trotskyite” Lutte Ouvrière and the LCR it is to increase their influence in the European elections of June next year (capitalizing on the discredit of the PCF). Moreover, they seek to influence sectors of the PCF for merging in a common reformist party. In Brazil, the PSTU limited itself to attack Cardoso during the electoral campaign, keeping their mouth shut about Lula’s right turn, who has now used his prestige to prevent workers from unleashing a mass resistance against the forthcoming attack. And in the election run-off they called to vote for the state governors candidates on the slate of the class collaboration front between Lula and Brizola. The Argentine Partido Obrero uses the slogan “rebuild the Fourth International” as a mere cover-up of its electoralist policy. They just try to woo “opposition” union bureaucracies, while struggling to convene an “International Class Struggle Conference” along with reformist and petty-bourgeois leaderships like the Brazilian MST.
Alongside these centrist currents that keep organizational and political independence while adapting their program and their politics, with the purpose of flirting sectors that come off the reformist parties, there are those openly liquidationist currents, like the Mexican UNIOS that has meerged in a common reformist party with the PPS (the party founded by Lombardo Toledano) or their cothinkers in the UIT, the Argentine MST, which has been in a strategic front with the Communist Party of Argentina for several years now. The fight for the reconstruction of the IV International is inseparable from the open combat against these two varieties of political opportunism.
Continuity and discontinuity of the revolutionary leadership along the XX century
When pondering the possibilities of achieving the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist order, Marxists do not only evaluate the potential of the working class “in itself.” Despite that the general conditions of the epoch of crises, wars and revolutions provide the objective premises for socialist revolution, this cannot reach victory without the maturity of the subjective factor. That explains the parasitic survival of capitalism along almost the whole XX century. In 1917, with the victory of the October revolution, Lenin stated that the epoch of crises, wars and revolutions was at the same time the epoch of socialist revolution. As Stalinism prevailed within the Third International, and in the wake of the defeats of the ‘30s, Trotsky maintained in the Transitional Program that “the crisis of humanity boils down to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat”, while predicting that the war itself would provide enormous possibilities for the overcoming of that crisis by transforming the Fourth International in a mass force. Though several revolutionary processes broke out after the end of the war, Stalinism came out strengthened of it, instead of collapsing as Trotsky had foreseen. The postwar period, the “Yalta order”, saw a qualitative reinforcement of the counter-revolutionary leaderships of the labor movement (Stalinists, Social Democrats, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists), which all led the masses to trust in class conciliation strategies, in reformism and coexistence with imperialism alike. Thanks to the collaboration of Stalinism, revolution was kept far away from the main imperialist countries for an entire period. Nevertheless, revolution swept through the countries of the capitalist periphery during those years. Major revolutions broke out in the colonial and semicolonial world, thus confirming the perspective advanced by Trotsky in The Permanent Revolution. However, in the Yugoslavian, Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, the working class was not the leading social force (but rather the semi proletariat and the poor peasantry), and they were led by nationalist petty-bourgeois leaderships, or else the Stalinists, all of them sworn enemies of the strategy of the international socialist revolution. All in all, those revolutions fell short of contributing to overcome the crisis of proletarian leadership.
During the 1968-76 ascent, the hegemony of reformist leaderships was openly challenged. However, new leaderships that benefited from their discredit, such as the Guevarists, Maoists and centrists that spoke on behalf of Trotskyism, had either openly opportunist strategies (Maoism) or were totally unable -after decades of hoping that reformists should go beyond their intentions pushed by the “force of the process itself”- of putting forward a coherent revolutionary strategy (such was the case of “Trotskyist” centrism).
As the neoliberal offensive gained momentum in the ‘80s, the absolute bankruptcy of the traditional leaderships of the Yalta period was exposed. While Social Democratic governments in Spain, France and Greece all implemted the same policies than Reagan and Thatcher, the Stalinist bureaucrats went openly for capitalist restoration. The revolutionary uprisings of 1989-91 in the USSR and Eastern Europe challenged this perspective, but they ended quickly in miscarriage in those countries, and were bloodily crushed in China. Trotsky’s prediction that unless a political revolution swept it away, the bureaucracy would become more and more a direct agent of capitalist restoration was proved right in this sense, although within a more protracted period of time than he had originally thought. Social Democracy’s right turn and the Stalinists conversion to direct agents of the capitalist restoration caused the demoralization of millions of workers that had trusted these leaderships (in spite of the fact that they had tainted the banner of Socialism and Marxism with the blood of the working class). The bourgeoisie then launched a feverish campaign about the “death of socialism” and “the victory of democracy and the market” on a global scale. The currents claiming to speak on behalf of Trotskyism, far from appearing as an alternative to the Stalinist debacle, plunged into further centrist confusion, and almost most of them split up under the impact of these events. Even the main current from “Trotskyist” centrism during the period of Yalta, the USFI, went on to say, in tune with the prevailing view of the moment -fabricated by the bourgeoisie, Social Democracy and the remains of Stalinism alike- that “the epoch ushered in by the October revolution has come to an end”, and that it was no longer necessary to draw a line “between reformists and revolutionaries”. Hence, they went for the dissolution of the most of their sections in common reformist organizations with Maoists, former Stalinists, Social Democrats, or else bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists.
The perspective of socialism and revolution was now anathema to millions. The subjectivity of the working class movement was at its lowest. Against the prevailing mood of the left, we held that, although the conditions were unfavorable in the short term, the strategic perspectives for overcoming the crisis of the revolutionary leadership had improved. We held that the demise of Stalinism had had a contradictory immediate result, since although it had led to the inauguration of restorationist governments both in the East and the former USSR, the collapse of the world Stalinist apparatus had deepened the crisis of imperialist rule, because it had released the spontaneity of the masses. On a more general level, we maintained that the prevalent dynamics in the Yalta period, when revolutions just improved the lot of leaderships that were enemies of the international socialist revolution (a situation we called “strategic stalemate”) was over from now on.
We pointed out that the revolutions in ’89-’91 ushred in a period of heightened class struggle, crossed notwithstanding by an abysmal crisis of proletarian subjectivity. This was evidenced in the revolts of those years in several regions of the world. In an elementary way, they spoke of a hardening in the mass resistance as to that of the class struggle during the 80s. The mass counteroffensive unfolding in several countries since 1995, with a marked tendency to turn into political mass struggle, has confirmed that 1989 -against what almost the whole left said- ushered in an upswing in the class struggle, no matter how tortuously. This heightening of the mass struggle, with general strikes in the five continents, fell short of what we saw in the period of 1968-76. Above all, the radicalization of significant vanguard sectors was very limited, so that the leap in the counter-revolutionary collaboration between Social Democrats and Stalinists – increasing ever since the collapse of Stalinism, was reinforced, and both of them were able to derail the street protests to the ballot box. These leaderships colluded to prevent the mass actions to go down a revolutionary path, and took advantage of the masses’ repudiation of neoliberal governments, to replace the latter in the administration of the capitalists’ businesses. Likewise, this process of mass struggle reinforced several unions and also brought others to life, although always controled by bureaucratic leaderships servile to the employers.
Thus, the 1995 upswing has not brought about a revolutionary regeneration of the labor movement but rather, for now, has led to a “reformist recomposition”, i.e. a reinforcement of counter-revolutionary misleaderships that willtry every at hand to prevent the proletariat from conquering political independence. The working class should deal with the unfolding capitalist crisis in these subjective conditions.
The situation of the proletariat
The main obstacle opposing the transformation of the current situation in one of a revolutionary upsurge is not sociological, but a political one. Against the nonsense proclaimed by those “theorists” of the “death of labor” (Gorz, Rifkin, Shaft), the wage-earners living in cities had hardly ever been such a powerful social force as today: according to data furnished by Mandel in the late ’80s, the total number of non agricultural wage-earners in the world stood at 700 -800 million, a number never reached in the past, which should be added up to nearly 200 million of rural wage-earners, i.e., a social force of a billion wage-earners, with around 200 million industrial workers at its core. This massive social force has the potential of leading millions of poor peasants towards proletarian revolutions that shall be able of overthrowing the rule of imperialist monopolies over the world economy, paving the way to building socialism. In countries like France, wage-earners constitute in 1998 an 86% of the economically active population, exactly the same percentage than in the mid ‘70s. The number of countries where the urban wage-earners constitute over 60% of the population has increased since World War II. Although it is true that since the crisis of the mid ‘70s, there has been a decrease in the weight of the industrial proletariat as a percentage of wage-earners as a whole, this is not the case in the semi-industrialized countries. There, the concentration of industrial labor has grown apace.
In those countries of backward bourgeois development, the proletariat is in a much more favorable position of giving the lead to all the exploited and oppressed classes than the Russian urban proletariat back in 1917, when it led a population of 150 million inhabitants made up of an overwhelming majority of peasants to victory. Moreover, the social weight of the service and transport workers, far from weakening the proletarian struggle (as the bourgeois ideologists had it), has shwon its strategic potential to hit capital: after the state workers strike of November-December 1995 in France paralyzed an important sector of production because of lack of inputs, truck drivers of that country walked out and set up road blockades that paralyzed the transports throughout France, causing shortage in several cities. In the US, in turn, the UPS strike affected and caused losses worth millions to companies operating with them; Korean bank clerks have threatene to cause a financial havoc if they are sacked.
The trend to mass political action, in particular the general strikes seen in several countries since late 1995, have given the lie to those who claimed that the atomisation and fragmentation of the proletariat had become an unsurmountable obstacle for the class struggle. Every continent has been shaken by general strikes, big stoppages and massive political actions: the recurrent Korean strikes and the mass uprising in Indonesia, to the French, German, Greek and Danish strikes -among the most important – that have spread through Europe; from the Ecuadorian general strike that overthrew the government of Bucaram, the general strikes (August and September of 1996) and the risings of the unemployed (1997) in Argentina to the revival of the American proletariat (UPS, General Motors, etc.); from the great strike of the Australian dockers to the general strikes in Zimbabwe.
Since bourgeois hacks are no longer able to conceal proletarian action, now they are busy trying to deny its revolutionary potential. Theories predicating the “bourgeoisiefication” of the labor class have made a comeback, hailed by those seeking to replace the proletariat for “marginalized” in general, i.e., a relapse into ideologies previous to the Communist Manifesto. It was there that Marx pointed out that, while there were other strata oppressed and exploited by capital, the working class was “the only truly revolutionary class” -due to its role in production, because it was concentrated in big establishments, strived for collective action, and had “nothing to lose but its chains”. We should add that such “novel” arguments are nothing but an repetition of those before 1968, when labor radicalization in the imperialist countries as well as in the semicolonies and in the deformed worker states swept them all away. If those arguments were false back then, all the more today, when the capitalist offensive leads to atomization on one hand, while nurturing the tendencies to a labor united front on the other, as we have seen in the last period. Whatever the tempo, the conditions brought about by the crisis are a fertile soil for a fresh wave of labor radicalization in the next years.
The strategic task of the current period
No matter how strenous is to take a step forward today -when the radicalization of the labor masses, or else wide layers of vanguard is by and large absent-, we have an enormous strategic confidence. If Trotsky, when both Stalinism and Fascism reigned supreme before the war, confronted a similar challenge to the one we have today, had an unrelenting confidence in the potential of the Fourth International, and went on to say that “the laws of history are stronger than any bureaucratic apparatus”, why shouldn’t we “make our best revolutionary efforts” after having seen the demise of the Stalinist juggernaut worlwide to rally the world proletarian vanguard, taking step to rebuild the Fourth International? As matter of fact, this our main challenge for the next and convulsive years ahead. Forsuch endeavor, in order to make the “immaturity” of the proletariat and its vanguard (confusion and disappointment of the older generation, inexperience of the new layers coming into the fray) catch up with the “maturity” of the objective conditions, we should adapt the perspective of our transitional program to the current stage. We should do so to help the masses, in their day-to-day fight, to raise from their current demands to the socialist program of proletarian revolution. This means we should raise a system of transitional demands starting from the current conditions and conscience of wide layers of the working class that invariably lead to a single final outcome: the seizure of the power by the proletariat. We should go for a program that helps the proletariat to achieve class independence against the subordination to the bourgeoisie imposed by reformist and centrist currents alike. Such is the strategic task of the current period.
THE TASKS AND STRATEGY FOR THE PROLETARIAT BEFORE THE CURRENT CRISIS
We maintain that, given the extent of the crisis, the only progressive solution shall come from unifying the ranks of the world working class, aimed at overthrowing through proletarian revolutions the power of the capitalist states, to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat worlwide, and starting the transition to socialism altogether. This means should fight back the “third way” or else “light Keynesian”proposals; we should expose the mild reformism of the recycled CPs; and oppose the adaptation of the centrists to treacherous leaderships.
Regardless the tempo the crisis hits the different regions of the planet; it is the workers, the peasants and urban and rural poor, either from the semicolonies, the decomposing worker states or in the imperialist countries those who are being or will be hit the hardest by the crisis. To further the revolutionary mobilization of the masses all over the world, we have to raise a program to fight back the attacks that the capitalists have already launched. Its basis can be found in the foundational program of the Fourth International, the Transitional Program.
The role of minimum demands
Such program does not leave aside “minimum” demands -the masses’ immediate demands-, in so far as they retain part of its vital force at least. In this sense, what we said earlier this year remains fully valid: “The current crisis will force capital to dow away with the minimum concessions that it was forced to give, and to undermine the living standards of the proletariat still further. The new wave of sackings, wage cuts, the attacks on the most exploited sectors of the proletariat as the immigrants and contracted labor, the attempts at bringing in casual labor, have all become part of the agenda. Likewise, the democratic rights of the workers will be thwarted as the current attack unfolds. Before the current situation, demands such as Jobs for all! Down with sackings! Bring all contracted workers into the permanent staff! Down with casual labor!, as well as those defending the workers’ democratic rights have all gained a fresh force given the capitalists’ offensive. They are motivating demands that can boost the revolutionary mobilization of the workers.”
The distribution of working hours between the employed and the unemployed is the proletarian response to mass unemployment
Together with the dozens of different particular demands that should be raised according to the different regional, national, local or union peculiarities, there are two economic calamities exposing capitalism’s increasing insanity that should be dealt with generalized demands and methods of struggle: mass unemployment and the lowering living standards of the working masses. Ever since a huge sector of workers has already fallen prey of “chronic unemployment” in the last decades, the crisis could mean millions of workers swollen the ranks of the unemployed. In South East Asia, unemployment has soared from 6 to 20%. In Latin America, the perspectives are also dark, mainly taking into account that the effects of the current crisis will be much more far-reaching than those of the late ‘94 crisis, the so-called “Tequila effect” which doubled unemployment figures in Argentina (from 9 to 18%), Mexico (2 million new unemployed) and Brazil. Even countries like Japan which had stayed relatively aside, are experiencing a quick growth of their army of unemployed labor. The struggles of the unemployed have been gaining momentum in the last few years. Sectors of the masses, particularly in Europe, had come to believe that unemployment could be tackled by sharing the working time available between the employed and the unemployed without wage loss. Such perspective has become even much stronger today. But this is at odds to what the union bureaucracies are proposing. They have transformed the demand of cutting down the working week into a weapon for the bosses to push ahead with wage cuts and casual labor all alike. We say: For a plan of public works and for the sharing up of working hours available between the employed and the unemployed, with a wage equivalent to the average shopping basket! This should be the one and only banner of struggle raised by the proletariat against the calamity of unemployment all over the world.
Unions and factory committees
Fighting back the capitalist attack requires workers to set up mass organizations to fight for workers’ demands. The guidelines provided by the Transitional Program remain valid today in this respect also.
Opposed to ultra-leftists, the Trotskyists have said we need “to play an active role in mass unions, to strengthen them and to raise their fighting capacity”, including the demand to organize the most exploited sectors of our class, such as the immigrants and the unemployed; while fighting “reacklessly against any attempt at subordinating the unions to the bourgeois state and tying the hands of the proletariat with ‘compulsory arbitration’ or any other way of police custody”. In order to do that, we should fight for revolutionary leaderships and fractions in the unions, and for their independent existence of both the state and bourgeois parties. The growing state control over the unions has to do with the increasing subordination of whole swathes of the union bureaucracy in the 80s to the plans imposed by the bosses (even “entrepreneurial” union bureaucracies sprung up in several countries). This has led to the unions being transformed into hollow superstructural shells, true war machines of capital against labor. Thus, union membership has gone down in several countries, and unions do not appeal the proletariat as they used to. In caving in completely to the bosses, the union bureaucracy has discredited the unions, as much as the Stalinist bureaucracy wreaked havoc to the cause of socialism.
However, the increased activity by workers in the last three years has given the lie to those that deemed the unions were dead, or else those who write them off as a field for revolutionary activity. Many unions have gained part of their force back in the heat of those mass struggles in which workers have forced the leading bureaucracies to leave their comfortable armchairs and go fight in the streets and be at strike pickets. This was seen in the strikes in the USA and also in Germany, where the IG Metall has increased its membership significantly after years. New organizations, like the SUD unions, have been formed in countries like France. These rally part of the most fighting activists, although they hace a very reformist orientation. This has also been the case of countries with less consolidated bureaucracies like South Korea, where the bourgeoisie has tried hard to subordinate them completely to the state. No matter how hard they tried, the rank and file of the unions has been challenging and ridding of the different leaders that caved in to the dictates of the employers. In Indonesia, after an almost nonexistent unionism, apart from the organizations sponsored by Suharto, the union movement has experienced a fast development.
We say: Down with the treacherous union bureaucracies, lieutenants of capital within the labor movement! Unions should be independent from the state and the bourgeois parties! Full union rights for immigrants and unemployed workers! Such is the axis of our intervention to forge revolutionary fractions in trade unions.
At the same time, we resolutely condemn fetishism of the unions, so characteristic of most of “Trotskyist” centrism, that is used to peacefully coexisting with treacherous bureaucrats of the worst kind. In each step of the battle, the Trotskyists are not only ready to boldly and resolutely promote fighting leaders to the leading posts in critical moments, against the bureaucratic officials and careerists in the unions, but also “to set up, whenever possible independent fighting organizations, much more suitable for the task of waging a mass struggle against bourgeois society, not hesitating, if need be, to openly break away with the conservative apparatuses of the unions.” In recent years, we have seen tendencies to set up such bodies in Albania, in the movement of the unemployed of Jujuy in Argentina and also in Indonesia.
Against the division of the ranks of the working class imposed by the union bureaucracy, that accepts outsourcing and casualisation, supports the anti-immigrant campaigns of the different bourgeoisies, and leaves the unemployed on their own, we need to fight for purpose-built organizations gathering the most oppressed masses, that are only drawn into the fight when the workers’ movement goes decisively on the offensive: strike committees, unemployed committees, factory committees, and finally, soviets.
The current situation, of a feverish and explosive intervention by the labor movement, and also on of division of its ranks, the Trotskyists boldly fight for building factory committees elected by all the workers, to overcome the divisions imposed by casualisation and outsourcing, growing into a true dual power at the workplace. The union bureaucracy is a sworn enemy of this policy.
The fight for workers’ control and the abolition of commercial secret
Against all the mumbo-jumbo of the technocrats, who after having ceaselessly pounded on the benefitial effects of the free flow of finance capital -which daily moves around the planet an amount worth the production of one year -, have now become afraid of it, and strive for “limited controls” over speculative capital; against the crocodile tears of those now dreading the effects of the “cuts” sponsored by the IMF and the World Bank. Or else against the reformists that deem possible to stop the works of concentrated finance capital by “creating a NGO to further the Tobin tax”; we need to put an end to the commercial secret which allows the capitalists to do all kind of businesses without any control, i.e.commit robbery and fraud against workers and the entire society, making whole countries suddenly collapse overnight, and throwing thousands of workers out of work just in seconds.
The only serious measure against all this is to impose the abolition of the commercial secret and workers’ control of the banking system, industry and transports altogether, which will expose in the eyes of society the enormous wastes of human labor resulting from the capitalist anarchy and the bare pursuit of profit, making clear the “debit and credit” of society as a whole. Learning from the experience of workers’ control, the working class will get ready for the direct administration of the nationalized industry when the moment comes.
This is not about paying heed to the sniveling of any given capitalist that has become a victim of his own régime and makes his losses public just looking forward to justifying dismissals, or else a shutdown. What we are talking about is of exposing in the eyes of the whole society the accountancy books of all the exploiters. Workers cannot, nor should they, adjust their living standards to the needs of each individual capitalist. As Trotsky pointed out, “the task is about reorganizing the whole production and distribution system on a more decent and efficient basis. Such as the abolition of managerial secrets is a necessary condition for workers’ control, that control is the first step on the road to a socialist management of the economy.”
Expropriation of the big capitalist trusts
Whenever the occasion arises, we should raise the demand of expropriation of different key industrial branches, vital for the existence of the nation, or else of the most parasitic sector of the bourgeoisie. Likewise, we should fight for the nationalization of those companies dismissing workers or else shutting down, without compensation and under workers’ control. We should also put an end to the big business of the privatization of state-owned companies carried out in several countries, particularly the public utilities of semicolonial nations, demanding the renationalization, without compensation and under workers’ control, of these companies.
Particularly important may be to agitate for the expropriation of the big monopolies, the “barons of the economy”, be them foreigners or else “native”, ruling the economy in each country. Boldly raising these demands should help the proletariat get ready to succeed in the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie, when the uprising of the proletariat puts that on the agenda.
Expropriation of the private banking and nationalization under workers’ control of the credit system
Lenin had already pointed out how the imperialist phase of capitalism, that of the rule of finance capital, led the banks to concentrate in their hands the actual running of the economy. Today their power has increased; businesses bound to debts that beget new debts are worth billions of dollars, that the different states take out of the pockets of the workers to hand it out to international usurers. In turn, banking businesses have widely spread, directly involving millions of people.
In their structure, the banks express in a concentrated way the complete structure of modern capital: they combine monopolistic tendencies with anarchic ones. The Transitional Program points out that: “It is impossible to take a single serious step in the fight against the monopolistic despotism and the capitalist anarchy -which complement each other in their destructive work- if the leading positions in the banks are left in the hands of rapacious capitalists. In order to set up a unified system of investment and credit, and a rational plan that corresponds to the interests of the whole people, it is necessary to merge all the banks into a single national institution. Only the expropriation of the private banks and the concentration of the whole credit system in the hands of the state will provide the latter with the real necessary means, i.e., material ones -and not only on paper and bureaucratic ones-, for economic planning. The expropriation of the banks does not mean the expropriation of bank accounts at all. On the contrary, the single state bank will be able to create much more favorable conditions for the small depositors than the private banks. Likewise, a state bank alone can establish favorable, i.e., cheap credit conditions for peasants, artisans and shopkeepers. Still more important, however, is the fact that the economy as a whole -first and foremost big industry and transports -, led by a single finance high command, shall be committed to serve the vital interests of workers and the rest of the toilers. However, the statization of the banks will only bring about these favorable results if state power itself goes completely from the hands of the exploiters to the hands of the workers.” As the internationalization and the concentration of bank has just grown apace in the last few years, these statements remain fully valid today.
Strike pickets; self-defense groups; workers’ militias
Each serious fight of the proletariat is faced with the repression of the bourgeoisie, either by its “official” repressive forces or else others recruited for that purpose. From state terrorism to death squads, the working class and the oppressed have suffered bourgeois repression in their widest and most sanguinary forms. While the reformists systematically lull the mind of workers with all sort of pacifist prejudices, the bourgeoisie remains armed to the teeth and workers stand defenseless before it. As the crisis unfolds, we should expect that today’s more or less marginal far-right movements and actions should increase tenfold. In Germany, the Neo-Nazis have carried out several vicious attacks against the immigrants. In the USA, the militias are the embryo of Fascist gangs against Afro-Americans and immigrants. In Latin America, the landowners have truly private armies that, in complicity with the police forces, frequently murder peasants, as happens with “the landless” in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia. To fight the clamp-down of the capitalist states and the attacks of right wing gangs, the working class should respond by organizing workers’ self-defense in each fight. Strike pickets should be the starting point. Each strike and demonstration should be an occasion to agitate for the need to set up self-defense groups of workers. In perspective the policy of labor militia should be put forward as the only serious guarantee of the inviolability of the labor organizations.
The arming of the proletariat is not an essentially technical problem but a political one. As it was shown in the uprising of the Albanian masses in February 1997, whenever the proletariat is willing to go for it, it will find the way and the means for arming itself.
Labor, peasant and popular alliance
In the theory of permanent revolution, Trotsky said that the revolutionary alliance of workers and peasants was only possible if the proletariat resolutely fought against the influence of the liberal bourgeoisie on the rural masses. The rural uprisings in Latin America in the last few years, as the current uprisings in Indonesia, have put this question on the agenda again. The leaderships of the rural movements have subordinated the peasant masses to the “opposition” strands of the bourgeoisie, as it happened with the EZLN calling trust in the PRD of Cárdenas in Mexico, or else with the Brazilian MST, that has supported the Lula-Brizola front in Brazil. The centrist currents that speak on behalf of Trotskyism, in turn, adapt themselves to these peasant leaderships completely writing off the necessary independence of the proletarian party. That is, they have surrendered to populist views that just water down the necessarily leading role of the proletariat in the anti-capitalist fight. This is does not mean at all that we underestimate the revolutionary role that the struggle for the land, or other demands of the peasants or the lower layers of the urban petty-bourgeoisie might play.
It is a matter of life and death for the proletariat to win over allies either among the peasantry, or among the lower sectors of the urban petty-bourgeoisie and the urban poor, for the fight against the bourgeoisie. In order to do this, the proletariat, acting as a politically independent force, should raise a program to enable the working class to make a special “pact” with such class sectors, so that the common fight against the bourgeoisie takes heed of their aspirations.
The demands of radical democracy
To forge this “pact”, the working class should not only put forward structural-democratic demands but also, on certain occasions, those of radical democracy. The illusions of the petty-bourgeoisie and wide sectors of the proletariat in the force of the vote and “democracy” just cannot be overlooked, but rather they should be overcome by mass mobilization. As the crisis unfolds, the Bonapartist tendencies of the bourgeois regimes will grow too. The Trotskyists, who fight for the revolutionary smashing of the bourgeois state, to replace it for a power based on workers’ councils and the arming of the working class, support at the same time any progressive fight against the attacks on the democratic rights of the workers, and against the reactionary institutions of the bourgeois state. Measures like getting rid of the presidential figure and the upper houses of the parliaments, and their replacement for a single chamber made up of accountable deputies that earn an average worker’s wage, are demands that on certain occasions can act as a leverage for the revolutionary mobilization of the masses, preventing the democratic illusions of the latter from being used by the bourgeoisie to stop the revolutionary tide. But these demands cannot play but an episodic role in the unfolding of proletarian revolution. For that reason, whereas it would criminal not to raise the demands of radical democracy, it would also be the worst opportunistic crime to water down the perspective of worker power in pursue of a merely democratic one. That would amount to using democratic demands to put “a rope around the neck of revolution”, like Trotsky pointed out vis-a-vis the Stalinist policies in Spain, one that they raise in every revolutionary process they come across- as it happens with the policies of the PRD in Indonesia. We shall never forget that the bourgeoisie committed their worst crimes against the proletariat with the excuse of “defense of democracy.”
Defense of the right to national self-determination
The “national question” proved to be a burning issue at the end of the XX century, just as it was at its beginning. The Basques and the Kurdish, the Northern Irish and the Kosovars, the Latin American indigenous peoples and the Afro-Americans in the United States: all of them are peoples fighting back different forms of national oppression- raising demands that range from cultural autonomy to full independence. The working class defends the right of every nation to self-determination, even to complete secesion if that is what the population wants. We are not neutral in the wars between oppressing nations and oppressed ones : we side with the oppressed people, as it was in the case of the Bosnians, who defended the multiethnicity of their territory against its partition along ethnic lines, as both the greater Serbian and greater Croatian governments wanted. We also support the Basque people against the Spanish imperialist state. But at the same time we clearly say that in the epoch of imperialism, the solution for the national question is tightly bound to the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Whereas for workers of the oppressed nation, either independence or autonomy mean to get rid of their oppressors, for the local bourgeoisie it just boils down to having their hands free to give the nation away to some imperialist master. That is why we fight for the working class to be the leader of the national struggle. In order to achieve this, the proletariat of the oppressing nation plays a central role, as it is currently the case of the Serbian workers with regards to Kosovo, the Russian workers in the case of Chechnya, or the English in the case of Northern Ireland.
Worker councils or soviets and the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat
The mass actions of the last few years have but episodically brought to life embryonic bodies of self-determination of the struggling masses, like the people’s assemblies and the picket coordinating forums built by the Argentine unemployed that rose up back in early and mid-1997.
When Stalinism reigned supreme, its bureaucratic control of the labor movement made blocked the emergence of sovietic-type bodies. No wonder that during the Yalta period, these sprung up in political revolutions (Hungary 1956, Poland 1980-81), or else where Stalinism had little influence (Bolivia 1952), or where the masses slipped out from its control (the Chilean industrial forums in 1973).
If the current crisis fuels a drive to widespread mass resistance, the tendencies to self-organization of the masses on struggle will make a comeback accordingly. Worker councils or soviets are bodies best suited to harmonize the different demands and ways of struggle, even within the limits of a single city. All bureaucratic and reformist leaderships are mortal enemies of them, as they see how they lose control on workers every time they strive for self-determination.
Soviets can only arise althroughout the country when the mass movement goes for an openly revolutionary struggle. Their emergence brings in a true dual power between the organs of the bourgeois state and the soviet, both expressing two irreconcilable regimes, the bourgeoisie’s and the proletariat’s. The fate of society is defined with the victory of one or the other: either towards the dictatorship of capital or towards the dictatorship of the proletariat and the start of the socialist reconstruction of society.
The Transitional Program as a whole is based on the strategy of a revolutionary struggle for workers’ power, for the seizure of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat based on workers’ self-determination organizations, an inexorable step in the defeat of the world capitalist system. Only the proletariat is able to wrestle state power away from the hands of the rapacious bourgeois and imperialistic cliques, undoing their rule over the economy. Only on the basis of the power emanating from the councils of workers and the poor masses of city and countryside, supported by the arming of the toiling masses, through the organization of workers’ militias, will it be possible to establish the rational and democratic planning of the economy nationwide, or else regional and “globally”, doing away with the anarchy of capitalist production.
The increasing internationalization of the economy demands the working class should respond to the capitalist offensive on an international scale. While the world bourgeoisie agrees that the masses should pay for the consequences of the current crisis, each individual bourgeoisie tries to gain positions to strengthen before its competitors. The working class should not give up to the blackmail made on behalf of “national unity” and the “defense of national production”, arguments both put forward by the bourgeoisie in each country to convince the workers that they should put up with lower living standards, and give up on the class struggle altogether. To fight back this blackmail, workers need to coordinate their response to the capitalist attack both regionally and worldwide. Let Marx declaration of war be heard clearly: “Proletarians of all countries, unite!”
The tasks of the proletariat in the imperialist countries
The proletariat has to deal with different tasks in every country. The unity of the world working class cannot be achieved by proclaiming an abstract internationalism, but clearly setting out the tasks for the proletariat in the different regions of the planet. Broadly speaking, the proletariat has particular tasks in the imperialist countries, in semicolonial countries and in the decomposing workers’ states. These tasks are closely connected to the ones concerning socialist revolution worldwide.
In the imperialist countries, the proletariat must fight back not only the direct attacks laucnhed by the governments there, but also against the reinforcement of the onslaught launched by the imperialist governments against the workers and the peoples of the semicolonial nations. Against the brazen chauvinism of xenophobic and racist parties, and also state racism,characteristic of even the most “democratic” imperialist state, bound to intensify as the crisis unfolds, the defense of immigrant workers, the demand for their immediate legalization, are also fundamental tasks. Workers should be in the front line against imperialist interventions, be them direct or under cover of the “humanitarian” varnish, or else done with the pretext of “fighting drug-trafficking”, fighting against the deployment of UN or NATO troops (in countries of the African horn, the Balkans, etc.), blockades (Cuba, Libya, Iraq), sanctions, and bombings (Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan), all of them part of the arsenal the imperialist powers increasingly resort to. The transnational monopolies that squeeze workers out all around the planet are just seeking to impose a true statute of colonialism to guarantee their profits, the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), backed by the imperialist governments of the USA and the EU. We should be firmly opposed to them. Likewise, the current crisis stands on a sea of debts which are used by the imperialist banks to extort and loot the semicolonial nations to unheard-of limits. The fight for the condonation of the debts of the third world is a fundamental demand to achieve unity between workers in the imperialist countries and those in the semicolonies against their common imperialist enemy. In Europe, such policy entails the a reckless exposure of the governments headed by Social Democracy, that try to deviate the fights of the workers and the people alike, Social Imperialist governments that seek to cushion the crises of reactionary regimes, and prevent the radicalization of sectors of the masses. In order to develop their perfidious counter-revolutionary policy, these governments lean on the illusions that wide sectors of the labor movement still have in them. Although they have been weakened by the right-wing turn of previous years, and their transformation into mere electoral machines, they still retain certain organic links with organized workers. This policy of reckless and daily exposure of these governments, enemies of the mass movement should be supplemented with a policy of placing demands on them, to fight back the demagoguery, or else in the face of those reformist concessions that these governments might be forced to give, in order to mobilize the masses so that they Social Democracy to the test. All in all, these governments will have less and less room for maneuver, as reflected, though not yet in its full magnitude, in the downfall of the Ulivo government in Italy, and also in the left swing in Germany’s latest elections, an unexpected move that jeopardized the politics of a “grand coalition SPD-CDU” government, that the German big bourgeoisie was after. If the crisis hits Europe hard, the anti-working class policies of the reformists shall work for the reinforcement of xenophobic and racist parties like the French National Front, or the German Neo-Nazis, which will play a more active counter-revolutionary role if the class struggle gains momentum.
The tasks of the proletariat in semicolonial countries
In spite of the fact that several countries have reached a certain level of industrialization in the last few decades, resulting in an enlargement of the battalions of the proletariat in the semicolonial countries, the fight for the agrarian revolution -as we have seen, particularly in Latin America- and to overthrow the imperialist yoke remain two key tasks of the revolution in these countries, and also in most of African and Asian countries. Only by taking up such demands, in combination with others of a revolutionary-democratic kind, will the proletariat succeed in separating the peasantry from the influence of the “national” bourgeoisie, setting up soviets and going on to seize power. This has been the general tendency of revolutionary developments in such countries during the whole XX century, and it was already codified in Trotsky’s formulation of the permanent revolution. At present this is a matter of life and death in countries like Indonesia, where the advance of a revolutionary process that combines a democratic, anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution is being blocked by the action of the bourgeois opposition, thanks to the action of the Stalinist PRD that far from setting out the perspective of workers’ and peasants’ power, are just contributing to finish off the revolutionary process with the masquerade of “bourgeois democracy.” The same applies to countries like Colombia where the FARC guerrilla, after several decades of struggle in the countryside, and controlling several regions of the country, is engaged in advanced negotiations with the conservative government of Pastrana to be become part of the bourgeois régime, going down the same way than the Sandinistas, the Salvadorean FMLN and the Guatemalan URNG.
Political and social revolution in the decomposing workers’ states
Russia’s default last August has laid bare the impossibility of a “peaceful” restoration of capitalism in this country. Although the abortion of the 1989-91 revolutions has resulted in bourgeois governments coming to power in the former USSR and Eastern European countries altogether, nourishing the development of a class of new rich mostly coming from sectors of the old bureaucracy, a new capitalist social régime has not been able to consolidate yet. There are decisive battles ahead beofre bourgeois relationships of production settle in in these countries. We have called them “decomposing workers’ states.” The proletariat in these countries should carry out a revolution combining aspects of “political revolution” and “social revolution”, i.e., they should defend the remnants of non capitalist relationships of production, while fighting back the inroads made by the restorationists (the abolition of the nationalized foreign trade and the banking system, the advance of private property in important sectors of industry and agriculture, etc.). Demands such as: Down with the new rich and the bureaucrats! Confiscation of all privatized companies and put them to work under worekrs’ control are a key part of our program.
A similar program should be raised in those countries where the party-state regimes have not been smashed yet, and they are overseeing the process of capitalist restoration directly, as in China, Vietnam and Cuba. With regards to the latter, we should combine the unconditional defense of Cuba before any imperialist aggression with the struggle against the bureaucratic régime headed by Fidel Castro. While opening the economy of the island to imperialist capital and granting liberties to the Church (a spearhead of counterrevolution), he has clamped down on any independent action by the labor and peasant masses.
The struggle for class independence and the dictatorship of the proletariat
The programmatic guidelines that we have put forward seek to trace a perspective for revolutionary intervention in the forthcoming years. However, they will become a “soul without a body” if the party fighting for them does not gain new forces and builds itself up. Such party will only be able to arise in a reckless combat against the reformist leaderships, all of them enemies of furthering the revolutionary action of the masses, and against the centrists that adapt themselves to such misleaderships. This fight is two-fold: on one hand we should strive to develop the class independence of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, while making the working class take the lead on the rest of the exploited and oppressed classes in capitalist society on the other. Class independence, broadly speaking, means any struggle and drive towards organization by the working class that tends to go beyond the limits of the bourgeois régime, overcoming the reformist leaderships (from partial fights right up to the emergence of dual power bodies) strengthening the awareness of its historical interests, i.e., the overthrowing of the imperialist capitalist system worlwide by means of proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat altogether.
This fight today means a reckless struggle against the politics of counter-revolutionary collaboration of Social Democrats and Neo-Stalinists, who are busy managing imperialist businessess in Europe.
However, the perspective of class independence we are fighting for is opposed to a permanent tactic of “Labor Parties” everywher anytime, as most centrist parties do, turning an episodic tactic into a permanent strategy. Thus, they give up the fight for a revolutionary party and for the dictatorship of the proletariat altogether. Such “labor parties”, far from being “steps towards class independence”, are intended as new reformist parties that revolutionaries should confront. However, in certain circumstances, revolutionary Marxists should not shy away from raising the Labor Party tactic, as a bridge towards the development of a revolutionary party.
For a Liaison Committee for rebuilding the IV International and its national sections
With this program -the response of the Trotskyist Fraction-International Strategy before the current crisis- we seek to give our militants the most serious and profound program possible, not only to rally our ranks but to also to come together with all those currents and comrades with whom we have drawn revolutionary lessons from key events of the international class struggle. We therefore stand by the method set out in the document “Programmatic and Strategic Lessons to advance in the reconstruction of the Fourth International”. We are looking forward to come together with sectors orienting towards revolutionary Marxism, be them splits from “Trotskyist” currents or else those from outside Trotskyism orienting towards its strategy and program all alike. This means those who are endeavoring to build a bridge towards classical Marxism. In this sense, this program seeks to further the fight to set up a Liaison Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. In our view, this is a major preparatory when it comes to rallying principled Trotskyists, so that when mass radicalization to the left comes in due time, we shall be able to lead wide vanguard sectors, or else swathes of the mass movement, thus boosting the project of building a true World Party of Social Revolution. The Trotskyist Fraction-International Strategy is committed to such endeavor through and through.
– Fight against reformist and centrist leaderships that subordinate workers to their class enemies!
– For a Liaison Committee for the Rebuilding of the IV International!
– For workers power and socialist revolution worldwide!