The Programmatic Manifesto of Revolutionary Regroupment
This program was written and originally published by our comrades of Reagrupamento Revolucionário in September 2020. It is available here in its original Portuguese. Bolshevik-Leninist is in full programmatic agreement with this document. We publish here an English translation, and adaptation to an international context, which we were involved in producing.
Chapter 1 – The Historic Period in Which We Live
Chapter 2 – The Need for a Militant Propaganda Group
Chapter 3 – Party and Movement
Chapter 4 – The Trade Union Movement
Chapter 5 – The Ecological Question and the Question of the Land
Chapter 6 – The Movements Against Oppression
Chapter 7 – Marxism and the State
Chapter 8 – Bourgeois Democracy and the Proletariat
Chapter 9 – Imperialism
Chapter 10 – Permanent Revolution
Chapter 11 – Bureaucratized Workers’ States and the Tasks of the Transitional Epoch
Chapter 12 – The Theoretical and Programmatic Heritage We Claim
Chapter 1 – The Historic Period in Which We Live
The 2008 economic crisis inaugurated a new period in the international class struggle. The capitalists’ global counterrevolutionary crusade began in the mid-1970s and peaked in 1991, with the final destruction of collectivized property and other remnants of the conquests of the Russian Revolution in the countries of the Warsaw Pact. These conquests represented, for workers all over the world, the existence of some alternative to the capitalist system. Their destruction, together with the widespread plunder and economic subjection of almost a fifth of the planet’s surface by the imperialist bourgeoisie, was a terrible moral blow to the organizations claiming to be socialists, whether supporters of the Soviet bureaucracy or not. It also saved capitalism from a great crisis for almost two decades.
While the ostensibly revolutionary left at the time was already fragmented and disorganized by the successive degenerations of the Second, Third and Fourth Internationals, the atmosphere of defeat which followed ensured the marginalization of socialist groups that still held significance. This was a reactionary peace, its terms imposed by ideological hegemony and the arms of a capitalist class that felt confident enough to announce the “End of History” and the “Death of Communism”. The majority of so-called socialists had already abandoned, either openly or in practice, the foundations of Marxism, resigning themselves to the role of trying to correct this or that more problematic aspect of capitalism. Only a handful of revolutionary Marxists remained, who were unable to do much more than try to safeguard an ideal they refused to abandon.
This period has not yet come to an end. However, the disenchantment and clear exposure of the meaning of capitalism since the crisis that began in 2008 in the imperialist centers also marked the return of class struggle as a recognized and widespread phenomenon. The last decade was marked by heavy attacks by the bourgeoisie against already deteriorating living and working conditions worldwide, through the means of “austerity measures” and “reforms” against workers to transfer resources of unprecedented magnitude to the capitalists. It was in these conditions that resistance of workers and the oppressed was organized against the capitalist offensive, generally without a socialist character in the leadership. As a result of this, the influence of ostensibly socialist organizations has experienced some growth again, although it remains so far, at the beginning of what appears to be an even deeper economic crisis, still in an amorphous state. The organizational and political traditions of Marxism were not taken up and updated as a result.
In each country, the particular level of organization and political composition of the working class has led to different expressions of class struggle, both in its forms and means, and in its intensity. What binds these movements together is the global and interrelated character of the capitalist economy and the general axes of resistance against bourgeois plundering. The disastrous fall of the Soviet bloc by capitalist counterrevolution would not have been so fatal now if we had inherited from the 20th century a consistent Marxist tradition with clear practical authority around which workers could have organized and mobilized themselves. But as this was not a reality, the post-Soviet period only worsened the state of complete confusion, fragmentation, demoralization and adaptation of the workers’ movement to “possibilism”, that is, to what is considered acceptable by the ruling class, features which were already predominant among the left-wing organizations.
Successive rebellions occurred throughout the world, which did not develop into revolutions due to the absence of a Marxist perspective in the political and organizational practice of the workers in struggle. It is the absence of revolutionary socialist leadership, perspectives and traditions in the movement that makes it impossible to take a step forward.
Among the masses, Socialism continues to be simultaneously identified with bureaucratic dictatorship, left bourgeois governments, or “welfare states”. The emergence of figures such as Hugo Chávez and his “Socialism for the 21st century” at the beginning of the century; Bernie Sanders and his “Socialism” along the lines of European Social-Democracy, based in one of the twin parties of American Imperialism; and a generation of propagandists and rehabilitators of Stalin and his methods of “building socialism” in the USSR boosted such confusion. The vanguard of the working class in our period is characterized by political fragmentation and ideological confusion, with organizations claiming to be socialists echoing such false ideas. The study of past struggles often does not resolve political differences, but rather obscures them, because the historical legacy which organizations claim directly contradict their concrete actions in the present, not just in the details, but in the fundamental issues of revolution and class struggle.
The working class movement suffers from complete lack of ideological clarity as to the tasks and methods required. Groups of opposing camps on the left sometimes claim the same traditions, while there are parties where members of all kinds of traditions coexist, without any balance sheet. The events of the past decade have proved this is true, but they have done little to remedy or solve the situation. On the contrary: ostensibly socialist organizations implode and split, sometimes without consistent political justification, leading further confusion in the workers’ movement; organizations merge without programmatic clarity; they turn to positions opposite to those they claimed to defend yesterday, in a ball dance completely irrational and inexplicable from the point of view of the urgent need of the struggle for socialism.
The new generation of socialists is faced with a crisis of great magnitude. To resolve it, we need to reestablish a consistent Marxist and internationalist perspective, based on a balance sheet of what was inherited from the 20th century and this long period of reaction. It is necessary to begin by reaffirming the essential: the relevance of Marxism, class struggle and the need for a revolution that will establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. In order to overcome the crisis of leadership in the workers movement which revolutionaries are facing, we must first of all be clear about the fundamental issues that confront us. This programmatic manifesto aims to serve as a starting point for debates with other revolutionaries on the political tasks and methods that the proletarian revolution requires of Marxists.
Despite all that was and is still repeated until exhaustion by bourgeois propagandists about the “Death of Communism”, and those who deny even the existence of class struggle, the global socioeconomic system of the 21stCentury, despite its significant changes which need to be taken into account, is still the one against which Marx and Engels declared war on in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Marxism will not be outdated until capitalism is overcome. For most of the planet, the last decade has been one of absolute impoverishment and terrible attacks on workers’ material conditions in order to maximize profits for the capitalist class. The climate crisis caused by capitalism is knocking on our doors with increasing concern. Coups and wars more and more become a part of the everyday vocabulary of the workers in the face of imperialist powers’ frenzy to maintain their supremacy. Only an organized working class bearing the essential lessons of Marxism and class struggle can put an end to the dark future that the continuation of bourgeois rule holds for humanity.
Chapter 2 – The Need for a Militant Propaganda Group
Most of the organizations that claim to be socialist no longer see the overcoming of capitalism as a concrete historical perspective in their daily work, but instead talk of Socialism as an abstract perspective or pay lip service to it on special occasions. In their practice, they adapt, either openly or subtly, to the maintenance of the bourgeois state and promote the “lesser evil” of left posing capitalist parties or politicians. The expectations and illusions placed in the variants of bourgeois “socialism” in the past two decades are just one example of this, even when such politicians are clear defenders of wage exploitation, imperialist domination across the globe and the repressive forces of the capitalist state.
The adaptation of the left to the capitalist system is not restricted to the bourgeois or social democratic left, but includes organizations that contradictorily claim to be revolutionary. Decades of isolation, reaction and defeat have shaped the existing organizations. This dynamic already existed in the 20th century, but subsequent waves of defeat devastated parties and groups and led many ostensible socialists to take refuge in “solutions” adapted for capitalist rule, provided that they appeared more “realistic”. In the 21st century, cynicism, “possibilism” and an immediatist mentality became widespread among self-acclaimed revolutionaries.
Adaptation to the parties, figures or institutions of the bourgeoisie takes different forms according to the political situation and the pressures suffered by specific organizations. Many adapt to them while contradictorily claiming to base their actions on the historical lessons of revolutionary Marxism. But the fostering of illusions in, support for, promotion or even dissolution of these organizations into the spheres of influence of bourgeois politicians, parties and institutions is in complete contradiction with the need for an independent proletarian movement, an essential precondition of revolutionary struggle. “The proletarian movement is the independent movement of the immense majority for the benefit of the immense majority.” (Manifesto of Communist Party)
The political adaptation of the most conscious and active elements of the working class – its vanguard – to capitalism has social and historical roots. The predominant social composition of most socialist organizations – thanks both to the ideas of their leaders and to the disorganized and demoralized state of the movement in general – is petty-bourgeois, or restricted to the upper strata of the proletariat, which makes it even more difficult to break with the social bases and ideological foundations of the bourgeois regime. This adaptation results in the adoption by the vanguard of a consciousness typical of another class, the petty bourgeoisie. Despite criticism of the system’s pressures and attacks, the petty bourgeoisie generally expects their situation to improve by appealing to the bourgeois state and in approving reforms, rejecting the revolutionary method and the complete transformation of the mode of production.
Internally, many organizations emulate petty-bourgeois organizational methods. In some cases, there is a lack of militant discipline, detachment from the need for organization of the working class. In other cases, they reproduce a commanding discipline typical of the small boss. They develop an entrenched permanent leadership which does not seek to elevate members of the group to full participation: neither by helping them develop their theoretical and political education, nor in the consequent and democratic discussion of the political and methodological differences that arise. It is not uncommon for these organizations to try to train their militants as mere paper sellers, without preparing them for autonomous political thinking and elaboration.
We want to create a consistent and solid Marxist nucleus that is capable of fighting for the construction of a revolutionary party. As the working class is not politically homogeneous – and bourgeois ideology plays a very powerful role in instilling pessimism, acceptance of the status quo, apathy, illusion in bourgeois politicians, and a whole series of reactionary ideas in the class – not all workers must be part of the revolutionary party, otherwise it would not be a revolutionary party. We defend a vanguard party: a party composed of that segment of the class that has been able to perceive the need for workers’ organization to overcome capitalism and build socialism. The vanguard must be linked to the rest of the class, constantly pressing for the expansion of its borders and its circles of influence.
One of the most important tasks in the next period is the building of an international nucleus of Marxist workers, who will intervene to catalyze a regeneration of the revolutionary movement. This means regrouping the elements and groups around a solid program and against the political, organizational and even moral decay that took shape in the hegemony of petty-bourgeois ideology among those who claim to be socialists, and in the adaptation of socialist organizations to the bourgeoisie in different ways. This nucleus will seek to intervene as a well-defined section in the movements of the working class, to carry out fusions with the most dynamic tendencies evolving towards revolutionary ideas, and also to recruit individual workers who come close to its views.
It must take the form of a militant propaganda group. This means that it must combine the tasks of programmatic demarcation, discussion and ideological polemicizing with other groups, with the serious education of revolutionary militants capable of thinking for themselves, and the construction and strengthening of the struggles of the workers and the oppressed. A nucleus that, when given the opportunity to lead, builds an exemplary struggle that breaks the cycle of defeats. And that puts an end to the strengthening of opportunism through this long cycle. This nucleus needs to make every possible effort, respecting the proportions of its numbers and its current situation, in order to establish itself and build itself among the most strategic sectors of the proletariat in each place where it exists.
Theoretical and political training of militants is fundamental to building not only a democratic and functional organization, but also to give the future Marxist party an ideological and practical framework as leaders of the revolution, instead of as trained paper sellers, mere trade-unionists or militants educated in the school of “possibilism”.
Democratic centralism is a political principle, but it has no timeless practical application regardless of specific conditions. Instead of repeating 100-year-old formulas adopted in very different conditions, it is necessary to recover its principles by recognizing that a Marxist organization is both an organization for struggle, which needs to have firm unity of action, and a historically conscious organization, where there should be openness to debate over political differences and for the temporary formation of tendencies. This is a process that, if conducted with clarity and loyalty on the one hand, and without bureaucratic methods of excluding or silencing the debate on the other, tends to be tremendously educational for the members of the organization.
An organization with such a fragile confidence in its own program that it is unable to resolve its internal differences through political dispute, and that instead needs to appeal to bureaucratic organizational methods, will be completely unable to contribute to building a society where the majority of workers actively participate in the political process. At the same time, an organization with no commitment from its militants to act according to the decisions of the majority or to follow a democratically elected and authoritative leadership (abusive and bureaucratic leaderships excluded), will not be able to take a single firm step in the class struggle.
Chapter 3 – Party and Movement
The Marxist nucleus or organization that does not direct its attention and energy to the existing struggles and organizations of the workers’ movement is condemned to become a sect, even if that is not the intention of its members. As fragile and degenerated as the working class organizations may be, ignoring their existence means conceding to “start from scratch”. Marxists must carry out their own propaganda activities and their own agitation, meetings, demonstrations, leaflets. But a key element of their activity must be to intervene in the existing organizations of the proletariat.
Especially for a young organization, building itself in the workers’ movement is the most important task to prevent becoming a sect, or becoming restricted to intellectual and petty-bourgeois circles. This does not mean that intellectuals cannot play an important role in building organizations, but that their eyes and their efforts must be turned to the proletarian movement.
The most common form of organization of the workers’ movement in times of subdued struggle is the union movement. In addition, other forms of organization exist, and should also receive attention from Marxists, such as the struggle for housing. In such cases, these organizations are not necessarily composed only of the proletariat and Marxists must emphasize proletarian class interests in their intervention.
The intervention of Marxists in other movements must not be guided by either liquidationism or by “apparatism”. Marxists do not enter the movement to “dance to the tune”, but rather to swim against the stream. It is a fact that we must support the workers’ struggles for improvements in our material conditions, however small and partial they may be. But in each of them, it is crucial to always point out the overcoming of the capitalist system as the central objective of the working class in our epoch.
One of the best ways to do this is through the use of transitional demands. These are demands that in themselves contain the germ of elements of transition to socialism. They are not the same as simply defending revolution or socialism. They mean linking the current needs and struggles of workers at every moment and in each context with the solution that only a society of transition to socialism, governed by the dictatorship of the proletariat, could truly achieve. Some transitional demands may, temporarily and to a limited extent, be accepted by bourgeois governments. But capitalists will seek to reverse them at the first opportunity.
If transitional demands are not, therefore, of a purely propagandist character, their main objective is educational. Among some transitional demands we can include: the distribution of working hours among all available workers, without wage reductions, to end unemployment; the increase of wages at the same pace of inflation, to prevent the erosion of living conditions by capitalist crisis; the expropriation without compensation of certain strategic capitalist industries, such as finance, land and heavy industry, under the control of workers; the construction of management committees in companies, which seek to rival the bosses; land for those who live and work on it; expropriation of agribusiness and capitalist farms; and equal pay for equal work, with the aim of eliminating wage cuts in oppressed sectors that favor employers.
These are just a few examples, but they do not exhaust the list of possible transitional demands. Obviously, this does not mean that Marxists leave aside minimal demands or democratic demands that are important for the workers’ movement. But the transitional program is the most important axis of agitation, though it cannot be achieved in each minor struggle. The transitional program emerges out of the real needs of the proletariat, not from its current level of consciousness. Therefore, it is to be expected that it will be received with skepticism by workers at certain times, but its necessity is objectively demonstrated as soon as struggles acquire more serious traits and move towards an open confrontation with the capitalists and the state.
It is revealing that many groups on the ostensibly socialist left which have turned to the perspective of a more rational or “human” administration of the bourgeois state and the capitalist system reject the transitional program; instead adopting as their main goalposts “taxation of the rich” and the adoption of a “universal basic income” or other social welfare program funded by a portion of capitalist profits. As stated, Marxists do not refuse reforms, and these measures could be gained from the capitalists in some contexts. But contrary to the harmonious perspective of the opportunists, who reconcile these demands with the continuity of capitalism and the ruling class in power, we contend that they could only be obtained temporarily, in a situation of advancing struggles, and that the capitalists would seek to reverse them as soon as possible. That is why the transitional program, by contrast, should not be seen as a set of reforms to be achieved within the framework of the system, or as an end in itself. It aims, instead, to pave the way for understanding the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Apparatism means prioritizing control of the positions of power in workers’ organizations over the task of putting forward a revolutionary perspective, and often over the real influence of Marxists in the rank and file. Many small socialist currents try to control union apparatuses without often having the strength to manage them effectively. The struggle for the apparatus is also the easiest way for a Marxist nucleus to set aside its program and its objectives, as it starts to prioritize the maintenance of these positions, making spurious blocks with other forces and accommodating their speech and objectives. The main objective of a small Marxist nucleus is to broaden its bases of support, recognition and authority, while helping develop class consciousness in the workers’ movement.
An important tactic in many cases is the united front. It is an agreement among working class organizations to carry out a campaign of struggle or confrontation against the ruling class (even if in one company in particular) in the common interest of the workers. This is a useful tactic for the workers’ movement, for instance, to dismantle fascist groups, or to defeat the imposition of a measure against the working class. Marxists take advantage of the united fronts to “set the base against the leadership” of the bureaucratic, reformist or opportunistic organizations in general. In these contexts, we must be the ones who take it most seriously and dedicate ourselves actively to the efforts of the struggle, to show the superiority of the Marxist program in theory as well as in practice. In united fronts, Marxists do not issue common general political perspectives with other tendencies, and reserve themselves the right to criticize (and also to be criticized by) all participants. Frank political debate should not impede common action, except for sects (whether they are politically radical or moderate). The most succinct explanation of the united front is “to strike together for a common goal, but to march separately”.
The united front is not, contrary to what some think, an agreement or bloc of organizations to make joint political propaganda, with the intention of appearing to be a greater or more influential force, and which often takes the form of an electoral front. Such a practice is both dishonest, because it inevitably involves silencing the political differences between separate organizations, and liquidationist. Instead, if there is sufficient closeness between organizations in the context of a united front, Marxists would seek to direct the discussion towards a merger or regroupment, without this preventing the joint struggle in the front with other groups from continuing.
Chapter 4 – The Trade Union Movement
Gathering thousands or even millions of workers under the same organization formally in charge of defending their economic interests, unions have an undeniable organizational value. However in the current day, unions have no political or material independence, and are subject to the bourgeois state through different mechanisms. The leaders of the unions and their employees – the union bureaucracy – are a social layer who use their positions as a source of income, prestige and stability, and are usually disconnected from the interests and reality of the workers they claim to represent. Bureaucratic leaders function fundamentally as pressure belts for conciliation with bosses within the movement, and often work to limit and disorganize workers’ struggles to a level acceptable to capital.
Bureaucracy is characterized not only by the material privileges it takes through its control over the union apparatus, but also by its inability to present a political project counterposed to that of the bourgeoisie. Without an opposing project, it always seeks to subject workers to the “reality” of today’s society, serving as a support base for some capitalist government, party or politician, often playing the role of electoral assistant, without questioning the structure of exploitation, the capitalist class and bourgeois state. This political pressure eventually reaches even the most honest union activists if they do not have a revolutionary perspective. A union movement that truly defends the interests of workers against capitalism can only exist under Marxist leadership, and Marxist leadership can only exist in unions supported by the militant activity of working class.
The strike is the most important mean of struggle for the proletariat, because through it our class expresses its capacity to stop production until its demands are met, one of the main factors that gives the working class social power. In addition, the strike has an important pedagogical character, as it shows workers that they, not capital, are the irreplaceable element of production, who make every gear in the economy turn. The failure to organize effective, well-prepared strikes, which do not allow scabs, which are more than symbolic one-day strikes, and which unify different sections of workers from at least one strategic branch of industry, commerce, transport or distribution has been the most distinctive feature of the current union movement.
The bureaucracy reflects the passivity of the masses in a given period, but quickly becomes itself a powerful obstacle to the organization of struggles when discontent explodes. Without the ability to stop production, popular uprisings have limited strength. In recent years, mass rebellions against “reforms” and “austerity measures” in many countries have found purposeful silence from unions, despite the clamor for action among many workers. At most, one-day “general strikes” were carried out, which have little effect on the capitalists’ profits when the bosses are prepared in advance. Unions are thus alienated from the burning issues affecting workers.
It must be kept in mind that the union movement, especially at the present time, does not include a large number of precarious and informal workers from the new forms capitalist exploitation takes. Outsourced workers, as a rule, are not included in the struggle by the official unions because they are not “part of the company” even when they work side by side with others. Other new trades, such as those employed by apps, the so-called “uberized” and “gig economy” workers, who lack a direct connection to their bosses and other workers, also tend to lack organized unions. There is also no culture among the existing unions to represent unemployed workers, even those who have been in a particular trade for many years.
We want to be part of a workers’ insurgency against this reality of fragmentation, apathy and bureaucratic control within the unions. We defend unified and broad unions, which aim to organize all workers in a certain industry, including permanent, temporarily hired, informal and outsourced workers; and to carry out actions of solidarity, but also of political education, with the unemployed, putting pressure on companies to hire more workers and reduce working hours without reducing wages; to fight the hiring of outsourced workers without equal rights, against layoffs and cuts to rights and wages.
The huge reserve army of labor – the mass of unemployed – is a trump card in the hands of the capitalists to instill fear and apathy in our class. Without fighting unemployment, without unifying outsourced, informal and permanent workers, it is impossible to fight the bosses on an equal basis. Marxists press the unions to take on these agendas concretely and will struggle to undertake exemplary actions in this direction while the unions do not lead them, to point the right way. We also defend the organization of committees by workplace as a basis for these actions. The creation of new unions for the trades arising from the productive reformulation of capitalism, such as app workers, will also play a significant role in the organization of the proletariat and in which Marxists must seek to participate. We want the unions to be at the forefront of the revolts and rebellions of the workers and the oppressed, to gain confidence from the masses of all oppressed classes.
The regeneration of the union movement can only take place from within, with leaps of consciousness from the experiences of struggle and, also, from the influx of a new generation of workers, who are trained in a new militant culture. Marxists must build factions of their own (either open or underground, as the situation dictates) together with the most militant elements in the rank and file of unions, in spite of and against the bureaucracy. This Marxist union faction must include the militants from the revolutionary organization as well as those militants who agree with its program for the union and are willing to fight for it, without the need for immediate adherence to the general political program.
We defend a rotation of union leaders to curb the tendencies of bureaucratization, wide freedom of participation for the various political tendencies of workers, against the curbing of debates and gangsterist practices of exclusion. We are against the state-controlled union tax: we advocate that unions be self-financed directly with the contribution of their affiliates. We are also against any interference by bourgeois justice within the unions, a weapon often used by the bureaucracy, but which many on the left have naturalized.
The focus of Marxists is not the control of the union apparatus, although it may in some cases help the organization of workers, but rather the rooting of socialist consciousness among the proletariat. For this reason, especially in the first steps of the Marxist organization, union elections should not be the focus, although posts of representatives by workplace can quickly be won. We argue for the unions to carry out political education for their members, to assist in the process of raising workers’ class consciousness, not only about immediate economic issues, but about the historical interests of our class in the struggle for socialism.
In some specific cases, the split to form a new and more militant union against an old bureaucratized one will be necessary. When the preconditions exist to separate the masses of workers from the union bureaucracy, the formation of a more militant competing union can be progressive, even if it is initially a smaller one. But the creation of “unions” that consist of empty shells only leads to the exclusion of Marxists from the real unions and the liquidation of efforts for insertion into the workers’ movement.
Chapter 5 – The Ecological Question and the Question of the Land
In the countryside, the working class is relatively more geographically dispersed, but it is concentrated in the poles of agribusiness and industrialized farms. It is here that among the most exploited sectors of our class suffer some of capitalism’s most abusive conditions. In many nations, in particular those further on the periphery of capitalism, the countryside is also still composed of a variety of middle-classes, such as the peasants (petty-bourgeois owners, smallholders), with subdivisions ranging from the small peasant (who utilize their family workforce) to the large peasant (who permanently employ workers, being close to a capitalist).
Small peasants, who are the vast majority of this class and those who have less land, have historically been a potential ally of workers. But it is the process of political struggle that defines whether the peasants are on the side of the worker or the bourgeois, not something decided beforehand.
The Marxist program takes into account the situation of the peasant class, a class crushed and oppressed by capitalism. Agribusiness often pressures for the absorption of their land or subjects small peasants to conditions of dependence, in which they are only able to sell production at under disadvantageous prices and conditions, determined by capitalist buyers.
The objective of Marxists is the democratic collectivization of land, that is, the full control of fertile land, resources and agricultural technology by rural workers, aimed at meeting human needs of both the urban and rural masses under a dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, we defend the expropriation of the large landowners and agribusiness, the seizure of the land by those who live and work on it (land to the tiller), ending of production to the satisfaction of the export markets (especially the imperialist markets) and also defend the end of unproductive large property, maintained for obtaining rents. Our program on this issue parallels the program of the urban section of the proletariat, who need housing and often pay abusive rents or live in risky areas. We defend the expropriation of vacant properties in cities as an immediate measure for homeless, and housing precarious, workers. The land in rural areas is both a place to live and a means of production.
For the small peasants already established, we advocate that they keep their property and be integrated into future socialist economic planning on advantageous terms; at the same time, we will fight for their voluntary adhesion, based on political persuasion, to the construction of collective farms, with better technical conditions. We are against the forms of forced bureaucratic collectivization that took place in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, which uprooted the land even from small peasants and subjected them to work routines under which they had no decision. We support the struggle of small peasants, and peasants removed from their land, against big farmers and the violence of the thugs and henchmen of agribusiness and resource extractive capitalists. Within the rural workers’ and peasants’ movements, we defend a revolutionary policy and class independence of workers against the bourgeoisie, totally opposed to collaboration with the capitalist elites.
Closely linked to the land issue is the fight against the effects of the capitalist destruction of the planet. In the past two centuries, capitalism has taken significant steps that have brought humanity closer to a prolonged catastrophe caused by the destruction of natural resources and environmental conditions. The breaking of climate agreements which are already extremely limited and insufficient (such as the Paris Agreement) and the absence of any meaningful plan by governments and major industrialists to combat ecological devastation shows definitively that that the capitalist system is incapable of resolving the most acute question of our era regarding the survival of human society. The impact of environmental changes caused by capitalism is already inevitable, but that does not mean that it cannot be mitigated and to some degree reversed if an urgent change is made in the current course of climate change.
Only a system of planned production and distribution controlled and led by the producers themselves can resolve this issue, as opposed to a system whose basis is competition between large capitalists in the race for a higher profit margin, and which amounts to abusing and destroying both workers’ lives and ecosystems, ignoring (usually already loose) environmental protection standards. As in all other matters, capitalists seek to retain all profits in private hands, but to socialize as much as possible the costs and tragedies caused by that profit, passing them on to the working and toiling classes. This includes the loss of lives, housing and dignity for millions of human victims of socio-environmental destruction. It is the workers and the oppressed (among whom are the indigenous peoples of many nations) who suffer the effects of this the most. For this reason, they are also the ones actively interested in leading the fight against capitalist environmental destruction, and in defense of human, animal and plant life and the preservation of natural resources.
Marxists must intervene in ecological movements, as well as those of the peoples affected by the advance of capitalist means of production and the destruction caused by them. We do so with a program that, in addition to seeking reforms and concessions, also points to the necessity of socialist transition. The workers’ movement should place demands related to local and global socio-environmental destruction as a high priority in their struggles. It is an issue in which the struggle for socialism is absolutely urgent.
We fight illusions of a “green” bourgeoisie and the expectation that environmental destruction can be reversed through petty disputes within the limits of the bourgeois state, through regulations, etc. A quick and immediate reorganization of production on a global scale, including energy production now dominated by fossil fuels, is completely out of the question as long as capitalism reigns. This slow path, within the limits of what is approved by corporate boardrooms and parliaments, is killing us. The fact that some capitalists, seeing business potential in clean energy, have invested small amounts of capital in it, does not mean that they can offer a genuine solution to the climate crisis. They invest with an interest in profit, with no genuine commitment to changing the energy sources which fuel capitalism. In fact, many of the companies behind “dirty” energy sources – oil, coal, etc. – are themselves investing in clean energy sources. We argue that the profits of fossil fuel and polluting companies should be expropriated to support the populations suffering from environmental disasters and to invest in clean and renewable energy under expropriated companies controlled by workers.
We defend the preservation of the Amazon and other forest and natural territories against the predation of resource extractive companies and agribusiness, but also against the wishes of imperialist governments, which falsely pose themselves as “environmental protectors”. We fight for the demarcation and defense of the territories of indigenous peoples and for the workers’ movement to take an active part in this struggle. We reject tendencies (usually petty-bourgeois) that nourish Neo-Malthusian, anti-humanist and Primitivistic ideas, which point to humanity itself, science or population development as causes of environmental destruction.
It is the capitalist mode of production, protected by the bourgeois states, through their relentless search for raw materials for the production of surplus value, and through their desire to reduce production costs, which leads them to disregard human life and ecological stability, that is responsible for the destruction. Capitalism can and must be eliminated from humanity’s relationship with nature. Humans are animals, although very different from the others due to the depth with which labour allows their modification of the environment. Aware of this fact, a new, communist mode of production can seek, through social planning, to harmonize human relations with the natural world of which they are an integral part. Technology can and must be adapted in the interests of humanity and its natural metabolism with the Earth in the long term, without an “expiration date”; the human population can live on this planet without compromising it.
This does not mean that the experiences of socialist transition (stagnated by isolation and bureaucratic deformations) have fulfilled this role well. Throughout the 1920s, the Soviet Union led the world in environmental protection and ecological scientific concern, but that debate was buried in subsequent years by the bureaucratic reaction within the first proletarian state. Events such as the Chernobyl disaster and the destruction of the Aral Sea demonstrate that only the workers’ democratic control over the means of production and distribution, and their participation and decision in the entire production cycle, can create a society working for the prosperity of humans and other living beings as a priority.
Chapter 6 – The Movements Against Oppression
The capitalist system and its state maintain and expand countless forms of social oppression not strictly limited to class relations. But they are intertwined with the relation between social classes and their various concrete manifestations because nothing escapes this. Racism manifests itself very differently for a black bourgeois or a Supreme Court judge than for a black worker or street vendor living in a slum. This does not mean, on the other hand, that racism does not cross class barriers, but that Marxists cannot, even for a moment, lose sight of the fact that it is against the working class and other oppressed classes that these oppressions usually manifest themselves more drastically.
Racism remains one of the strongest remnants of colonial ravaging and African slavery, a remnant appropriated and strengthened by the capitalist system as an additional tool for exploitation. Black and non-white people in many countries are segregated to the lowest sections of society and are concentrated mainly in the working class, including many strategic trades, and the reserve army (the mass of unemployed). Racism has historically been the biggest obstacle to political action of this oppressed sector of the class. Marginalized racial groups disproportionately make up the millions of workers, urban and rural, that are unemployed and living without housing, without food, without security, without medical care or basic sanitation. These are minimal demands that capitalist states are unable to resolve, since their main objective is to keep profits always on the rise.
Across the globe, capitalism breeds and molds racism; against the black decedents of chattel slavery, against Asian, Latino, or Arab migrants and their families, against nationally oppressed minorities and indigenous victims of colonization. Capital utilizes racist oppression and white supremacist attitudes both to divide the working class and to ensure the existence of a doubly marginalized segment of the class which can be more easily, intensively, and profitably exploited. This makes the anti-racist struggle a core task of the Marxist movement.
The struggle against the racist brutality of everyday life, both in its material and cultural manifestations, and against the role played by the police, is central to the world socialist revolution, particularly in countries like the United States, Australia, and Brazil. The struggle for workers’ power is directly linked to the struggle to end racist oppression, as they are directed against the same capitalist structures. Marxists must be involved in the struggle of the most precarious sectors of workers (such as informal, casualised and outsourced workers), who are mostly from marginalized racial groups, as a priority. The struggle of informal workers for decent wages, stability and full rights, and equal pay for equal work, is central.
The organization of workers self-defense guards in the face of racist attacks also plays a decisive role, as it demonstrates in practice an alternative to the racist police. We advocate the repetition of past examples of union self-defense against racist attacks suffered by workers. The police are an instrument of legalized oppression by one class over the other. Those who suffer most from the police are precisely workers under direct fire by the racist capitalist state, victims of its racial genocide, reinforced daily by the capitalist media and other ideological apparatuses. The end of the racist police of the bourgeois state will be an indispensable step towards the elimination of racism.
The oppression of women plays the role throughout the world of subjecting them to double or triple work shifts, as they are put in charge of taking care of the home, children and the elderly – services that should be of universal right and public responsibility. This unpaid work exempts the bourgeois state and the capitalists from counting it in wages and providing them as public services, and that is why the nuclear family has become a sacred and idealized paradigm. In reality, mothers would have much more time for developing affectionate, healthy relationships with their children if there were not so much distress marking every material aspect of bringing them up, which women are often unable to fulfill by themselves. More so, they should also have a right to independence as women without life being reduced to caring for the home and children.
The elimination of the oppression of women demands, as one of its prerequisites, the guarantee of full employment with decent pay. All women must be entitled to work and not be paid a penny less for jobs performed on an equal basis with men. At the same time, women who are mothers must be free from double or triple work shifts. With full female employment, domestic services must be socialized: male and female public workers will fulfill the main functions of maintaining the households and people’s basic needs. Public cleaning services and public restaurants will meet the demands of the working class for food and cleanliness. Children must have access to safe childcare facilities available on demand, which receive children during their parents’ working hours, they must be provided at least three meals a day and free, quality education and leisure.
We are for the facilitation of the full right of to divorce, in order to free women from the yoke of marriage out of material necessity, and demand decent aid for destitute divorced women, single mothers and widows, aid that meets the real basic needs of working women. A democratic demand still absent in much of the world is the legalization of safe and on demand abortion, as part of a public and accessible healthcare system.
In addition to the basic requirement of equal pay for men and women in the same positions, we also defend as a partial reform that women’s wages be increased according to the number of children they have. We advocate that unions create action commissions against verbal and sexual harassment of women in the workplace, and encourage their participation in the workers’ movement, from which they are often excluded. Unions can also carry out actions to help women workers in situations of social vulnerability. The workers’ movement must reinforce campaigns against the chauvinist bourgeois culture which condones and defends rape and material and cultural manifestations of sexism.
Homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people and other minorities in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity suffer oppression based on the defense of the traditional values of the nuclear family, the same values that also play a role in the submission of women. The central structures responsible for this are the homophobic religious institutions and conservative political organizations, which create and foster bigotry against LGBTQI+ people. Psychological effects, derived from persecution and aggression, are recurrent. The LGBTQI+ population are often rejected by the family and marginalized, especially the members of the working class, and the formal job market is much more closed to them. In the case of transgender people, in many cases sex work ends up being the solution to avoiding economic misery.
Some sectors of the bourgeoisie are more tolerant with this issue, but workers continue to suffer insecurity, fear, abandonment and unemployment caused by the overwhelming homophobia and transphobia reinforced by reactionary religions and false moralism. We defend the expropriation of the properties (including their media) and fortunes of the criminal churches and conservative institutions that foster such practices and ideologies, as well as the end of tax exemptions for religious institutions in general. These resources should be used for the implementation of programs against homophobia and transphobia in all schools, as a way of combating these ideologies, and aid programs for the LGBTQI+ community, as well as guaranteeing full employment for its members. We advocate full equality of civil rights for LGBTQI+ people, including the right of social identity and medical transitioning for transgender people.
Another oppression that is crucial to combat for the unity of workers is that suffered by immigrants, foreigners and refugees. Working class people of this background are thrown in the worst jobs, while living with the risk of deportation and xenophobic and racist attacks. Imperialism fosters wars and exports its contradictions to the periphery of the system. In the pursuit of its interest in increasing profits, it destroys the traditional livelihoods of countless peoples, leading to desperate waves of immigrants in search of a better life in the imperialist centers. There, they are seen by the bourgeoisie and their ideology as scum, as “job thieves” (as if unemployment were not an intrinsic characteristic of capitalism) and as scapegoats for the problems of urban violence. We fight these reactionary ideas and demand the full right of citizenship to all immigrants, refugees and foreigners in search of work and a better life, as well as the right to housing and decent work. At the same time, we know that it is the socialist revolution, both in peripheral countries and in imperialist centers, which is the only way out of the global contradictions of capitalism.
For the working class it is a matter of life and death to combat these oppressions. They are not only used to exploit the oppressed sectors of the proletariat more heavily, and to reduce costs for capitalists as much as possible through unpaid and underpaid labor, but also to divide workers, scapegoating some for hardships that have their real origin in capitalism itself and in its repercussions, therefore releasing capitalists from the blame.
Against this, the strategy of Marxists is the centered in the proletarian class and its unity against all oppression. In unions and workers’ organizations in general, we fight for the greater involvement in these struggles of the entire working class, against the union bureaucracy’s indifference to, and fostering of, sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, etc. in our society. We are not content with solidarity in words, we want action and active support.
In the movements against oppression, the party should seek to intervene mainly through the creation of a transitional organization, a faction of the movement led by party members and supporters who are in the oppressed groups, but aided and also composed by those who are not. Their line must be to defend the proletarian revolution as the historically necessary way to destroy the structures that maintain oppression, a pre-requisite for their end. Additionally, the educational and cultural apparatus of a workers dictatorship established by a proletarian revolution must struggle to eradicate its ideological remnants. Here, as in all other cases, we do not mechanically oppose reform and revolution: we fight for all improvements and against every small abuse, sometimes together with other political forces. But we defend the centrality of the proletariat, without giving in to the illusion of liberalism and other ideologies that preach that equality and inclusion are possible within the limits of the capitalist system.
We do not give any support or praise to the demagogy of so-called “inclusive” or “progressive” companies and capitalists whose only interest is to profit from these ideas. We reject the so-called “identity” discourse, which generally contains nothing more than an innocuous reformist or liberal perspective, too often with sectarianism and anti-working class sentiment against sectors that are not victimized by a particular form of oppression. The identity of oppressed groups is commonly suppressed as a way of preventing their recognition and alterity. Taking this step in recognizing identity is progressive for the oppressed, but it shouldn’t stop there. Liberal lines of thought tend to have a culture of resignation about the existence of oppression itself, that is, the absence of a strategy to put an end to it, fighting only its individual and marginal manifestations. They also tend to spread division in the movement. Not defending proletarian unity, they view those who do not suffer from a specific oppression as unable to fight against it or, to some extent, automatic oppressors themselves. There is also a focus from these sectors in promoting purely cultural representations to fight racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic ideologies.
Combat at the cultural level is an essential expression of the fight against oppression, but it is not in itself the way to achieve the elimination of its structural basis, embedded in capitalism. It is not enough to spread black culture, for example, without denouncing capitalism, private property and the police force, which are cornerstones of racism. The fight against oppression in the arena of cultural representations must not lose sight of the denunciation of the capitalist system and its state.
Although there are more and less oppressed workers in capitalist society, the totality of social relations demonstrates that racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia etc. are used as a form of domination that ultimately harms all workers, and that it is in the interest of the entire working class to eradicate them. The opposite of this view, the idea that oppression is advantageous to white heterosexual working class men, for example, ends up being a concession to the bourgeois ideology that wants to convince them of this.
Oppressive behaviors are programmed historically and socially, they are not in the genetics or in the objective interests of the proletariat, and can be overcome through political struggle. We do not consider male workers in general to be enemies of women, nor white workers to be automatic enemies of blacks, latinos, etc. Nor do we try to distill feelings of Christian guilt, as if they were great beneficiaries of oppression and should feel guilty for their existence. This is useless for the movement. On the contrary, we argue that all workers must be active participants in the struggles of the oppressed, in a broad joint movement, centered on the proletariat, against the capitalist system and all its reactionary ideologies. Within the party, we fight all manifestations of oppression and prejudice, and we strive for equal conditions and treatment among members.
Chapter 7 – Marxism and the State
The state that governs capitalist society is not a structure that can be used to defend the interests of workers. Its institutions, despite internal contradictions and differences, are not “neutral” in their class character. The police, the Armed Forces, the courts, Congress, minister cabinets, all have intimate connections with big business, bankers and the big capitalists. The heads of state apparatuses are often themselves capitalists, and even those who are not, have close ties to the bourgeoisie. Such bonds are reinforced and maintained in countless ways. It is for this reason that Marxism affirms, against the arguments of reformists, that such a capitalist state must be destroyed. This conclusion means that it is not possible to change the character of the state through elections or even with the pressure of a mass movement, but that the workers’ movement must prepare itself for a confrontation in which the institutions of the bourgeoisie are disarmed, deprived of authority and dismembered.
The police, itself one of the central nuclei of the capitalist state, are not composed of workers, but of armed agents of capital, permanently materially and ideologically conditioned to confront the workers and oppressed who revolt against the system. For this reason, Marxists do not support police riots or “strikes” that are for the improvement of the repressive apparatus (better equipment, better conditions, better wages), as this means reinforcing the capitalist state’s conditions of repression against the workers. We are for the expulsion of police officers and their organizations from the workers’ movements.
The Armed Forces can vary in their composition a lot depending on the conjuncture. In situations of national crisis or war, workers who are not previously trained are often recruited. In such a context, agitation to break discipline and underground organization of soldiers and low ranks against top officers becomes possible and even crucial. We do not support the demands of the military in favor of better conditions of repression (more weapons, vehicles, prisons and autonomy) to attack the working class and historically oppressed sectors. But we defend the actions of groups or individuals in the Armed Forces who break the hierarchy by rejecting orders to attack workers, repress popular demonstrations or harass the left, for example.
Trade unions and other workers’ organizations must prepare, at appropriate times, to arm themselves and train their forces for confrontations with the state. Even before decisive revolutionary confrontations, the defence of strikes and the workers movement imposes this as a necessity. This means building workers’ defence guards, or collective defence units. It is a demand that must be raised frequently in trade unions and in the movement to face specific racist or fascist threats, but which takes on another dimension in times of pre-revolutionary crisis.
Marxists reject all expressions of pacifism of those who preach the liberal policy of “disarmament”. We are in favor of arming the population for a revolution where the state apparatus that represents the bourgeoisie is opposed by the organized force of workers. This has nothing to do with the apologia of reactionaries make for the armament of their own groups, linked to the police: armed landowners, right-wing militias, fascist groups and other agents of capital. Arming the population in general never crosses their minds, because it would be tantamount to preparing an element for their own overthrow.
Revolution is nothing more and nothing less than the period of open confrontation between the forces of a bourgeois state in crisis with the emerging organized forces of the proletariat, directing the vast majority of those oppressed by capitalism. Being a revolutionary means preparing the working class for this confrontation.
Marxists obviously wish that this conflict could be resolved peacefully, with the opinion of the majority of the proletariat triumphing against that of the minority of exploiters and parasites. But it has long been clear that the bourgeoisie does not intend to leave power and property peacefully. It instead arms itself in all possible ways, including the use of terrorism, coups, widespread police violence, and slander and defamation campaigns against communists. It is likely inevitable that the destruction of the bourgeois state will take place by means of insurrection, which can also lead to a path of civil war. Marxists consciously recognize these means as necessary, and stress that the pain of the childbirth of a new society will be lessened the stronger and more hegemonic the organized forces of workers are.
Doubts about the task of the proletariat in the revolution were answered historically by the Paris Commune, and then even more decisively by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The proletariat needs to build a “general staff”, an embryo of state power to win the fierce struggle against the bourgeoisie. Those who claim that the proletariat “needs no state”, usually Anarchists or so called “libertarian” socialists, ignore or romanticize the concrete tasks of the revolution. Marx and Engels responded to this in their mature writings: “Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875).
The dictatorship of the proletariat, which after the Russian Revolution was commonly called a workers’ state by the Bolsheviks, is the organized and armed power of workers to destroy the bourgeois state and carry out the reorganization of the economy and society in the interests of the workers. Whenever possible, we fight for the regime of such a state to be based on the democracy of the workers’ grassroots organizations. In Russia, such bodies were the workers councils (soviets). This is why, in every moment of crisis, one of the key tasks of revolutionaries is to explain the need for bodies of this type, even though their forms may vary in each location or situation (commune, workers council, neighborhood committees). They are the potential embryos of a proletarian state, self-educating schools of workers in the process of becoming the new ruling class.
Marxists therefore reject the idea that that the bourgeois state can gradually become proletarian, or make the transition to socialism without a revolution that overthrows it and establishes a proletarian state. This is a central difference with those who, in recent years, have been excited about what they claimed was the process of building socialism (or a “Bolivarian revolution”) in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. Many years ago, something similar took place with expectations in the Popular Front of Salvador Allende in Chile. Both experiences thoroughly confirmed the correctness of the Marxist assessment. Marxists remain in opposition to the left-wing bourgeois governments, which frustrate the task of destroying the state and shield the capitalist class, saving their skin in times of crisis.
Chapter 8 – Bourgeois Democracy and the Proletariat
Whether it has a democratic, semi-democratic, or dictatorial character, the apparatus of the bourgeois state remains “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” (Marx) and the “historical expression of the unity of the ruling class” (Gramsci). It would be fatal for workers to believe that they can change their fundamental condition as an oppressed class by selecting one or two components of this apparatus through “open” elections – in which the capitalist class generally ensures they remain in their hands through electoral restrictions and campaign lies.
Elections are periods where the bourgeoisie uses political competition among its various factions for popular support, to strengthen the facade of representation that is the essence of its “democracy”. As the state seeks at all times to conceal its class character working-class parties can sometimes also compete, although there are generally restrictions of all kinds. The visibility of the electoral dispute can be used as an opportunity for Marxist propaganda: to reinforce the slogans of the proletariat, to publicize and defend their struggles, as an auxiliary instrument to prepare the class, denouncing the role of the bourgeois state and pointing out the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism. Marxists need not abdicate anything in their program, nor must they commit to anything contrary to their program to seek short term success in elections. Such a tactic, however, is of a secondary order, and is not a priority for a small Marxist organization.
In the case of larger organizations, independent participation with a revolutionary program is the only principled way of participating in bourgeois electoral systems. The party must seek to project the clearest possible expression of its program and methods to the masses, which would not be possible in blocks with other organizations. However, especially for a small tendency with no presence in national political life, such a form of participation is not viable. Is electoral support for parties that are not revolutionary possible in this case? Let us return to the basic question involved in electoral participation: propagandizing in service of the socialist perspective and the interests of the working class. The central objectives of the participation of Marxists in elections are to publicize their program and their methods, and also to unmask the attempts of the bourgeoisie to influence the proletariat. Support for other working class partiescan be provided critically by revolutionaries, as long as they are running independently of the capitalist class, with a program that clearly defends the interests of workers against the bosses and their parties (never in coalition or with the desire of a coalition with them). Critical support is given by also presenting a systematic exposure of the disagreements and limitations of such campaigns.
We believe that any electoral support for capitalist parties, politicians or electoral blocs is a betrayal of class independence. This applies to liberal bourgeois electoral projects disguised as “progressive”. It is also the case with bourgeois campaigns that are also composed of workers’ parties or organizations (so-called “popular fronts”). In the latter case, the tactic of a Marxist tendency is to call for breaking the workers and their organizations from the coalition of collaboration with the capitalists, which necessarily excludes electoral support of any kind while the coalition persists.
A Constituent Assembly is not an institution capable of resolving the fundamental contradictions of society, or of giving real voice to workers. Some ostensible socialists present it as a “radically democratic” form of government or as a means by which the experience of popular participation would lead to socialist revolution. This is mistaken. The slogan for a Constituent Assembly can play a role as an auxiliary democratic demand in contexts of police or military dictatorships. But that is the limit of what it can be: a democratic demand. Class struggle will not advance through dispute within an institution like this, but through direct confrontation with the ruling class. For this reason, the Constituent Assembly cannot be the “crux of the matter” for revolutionaries, nor should they spread the false idea that it could be a solution to the needs of workers or the fundamental contradictions in capitalist society.
This does not mean that there is no difference between a democratic regime and a dictatorial regime with regard to the interests of the proletariat. Bourgeois democracy differs from bourgeois dictatorship in three fundamental aspects: freedom of organization, freedom of expression and formal participation of the broad masses in politics, especially with the choice of certain political positions in the state through elections. The importance of the first two is evident. Freedom of organization and expression means that the state apparatus tolerates a certain degree of public activity by proletarian organizations, especially that of trade unions and political parties.
Marxists must fight not only to defend workers’ democratic rights, but also to expand them, to free proletarian organizations from restrictions and to bring workers more and more into the political sphere, to get used to thinking politically and preparing ourselves for revolution. In countries where bourgeois dictatorships are in place, the struggle for the achievement of democratic rights for workers is a task that is especially on the agenda, but it should not be a barrier or replacement for agitation on the necessity of overcoming capitalism. On the contrary, the defense of democratic rights is subordinated to (and a means for) the defense of the socialist program. Democratic rights under capitalism must be seen as preparatory means for the real emancipation of the proletariat, and are not an end in themselves.
Bourgeois democracies are constantly in crisis as a symptom of the crises of capitalism. Countries at the periphery of the system feel even more strongly the effects of imperialist decay, being subject to ruptures in their fragile democracies by palace coups, military uprisings, manipulations in their electoral systems, and interventions of all kinds. Two frequent phenomena that undermine bourgeois democratic regimes are Fascist movements and coups d’état.
A Fascist party or a Fascist group is a reactionary organization that seeks to create its own paramilitary apparatus, mobilizing the petty bourgeoisie and sections of the proletariat (usually the unemployed) to attack the movements of the working class and oppressed, targeted as scapegoats for the crisis. This characteristic of mobilizing combat organizations is what differentiates them from the police and other reactionary organizations. Partly releasing the state apparatus from its responsibility as a repressive organ, the function of the Fascists for the bourgeoisie is to crush the resistance of the proletariat with their own hands, to pave the way for the liquidation of workers’ organizations.
A coup d’état is a deposition of one or more state organs by another, to resolve conflicts that could not be resolved by law or by the constitutionally provided procedure. Usually such coups happen when a faction of the ruling class sees the need to override others to impose tougher measures or conditions against the working class, whether in the sphere of social and democratic rights, in the arrangement of exploitation, in submissiveness to imperialists, etc. The level of violence and the depth of a coup d’état varies greatly with the context, from completely dismantling the configuration of the regime to simply imposing a temporary hiatus in the rules of bourgeois democracy. The establishment of police regimes is a means of attempting to destroy the organizations of the workers’ movement completely, crushing by force any resistance to the will of the victorious bourgeois faction. Often, coups d’état include legal facades to cover up their realization.
When there is resistance to Fascist insurrections or reactionary coups d’état, Marxists and workers have a side with such resistance, as the victory of the other side means the imposition of much harsher and more severe conditions for the working class. The defeat of these reactionary movements by the working class, in a context when proletariat is sufficiently organized, may put the bourgeois order as a whole in check. If the workers’ movement is not sufficiently prepared to harvest the fruits of the defeat of the reactionaries, it would at least prevent the immediate execution of overtly reactionary measures against the proletariat. In neither case should the position of the working class be dissolved in a bourgeois opposition camp, and Marxists must maintain their political independence and criticisms against all bourgeois factions.
Chapter 9 – Imperialism
Modern imperialism is a world economic system characterized by an international division of labor in which certain nations impose their will and interests on others. This is achieved not only by occupation and direct military pressure, which occurs in some cases, but mainly through the economic dependence of the nations of late capitalist development for loans, technology and investment by the great powers. In this way, the imperialist powers impose their hegemony over the planet, forcing other nations to conform to international norms designed by supranational institutions which favor the profits of their powerful corporations. “Finance capital is such a great, such a decisive, you might say, force in all economic and in all international relations, that it is capable of subjecting, and actually does subject, to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence” (Lenin). Such a system is far from being democratic or stable.
In its modern sense, imperialism is a relationship that is established between countries as soon as one is able to export capital (in the form of investments) to another at a significant level. This relationship is based on monopoly (dominance by a handful of large companies) and the merging of industrial and banking capital, generating financial capital and shaping the state in its interests. But these economic characteristics of imperialism, which at the beginning of the 20th century were unique to the great global powers, are now present in much of the world. This means that nations that are not global imperialist powers can sometimes establish imperialist-type relations with other subordinate nations.
Brazil, a nation subjugated to the imperialist powers in the international context, has an imperialistic relationship with Paraguay and Angola through the dominance of its transnational companies associated with imperialist (mainly American) capital in these countries. Brazilian companies capture a significant share of the local markets, exploiting the population and resources of these countries. It was in seeking to defend and expand this status that Brazil occupied Haiti in defense of American interests and today is a potential ally in the threat of attack against Venezuela. This, however, does not make Brazil a global imperialist power.
Russia, although it has a predatory position in relation to some countries of the former Soviet bloc and in the Middle East, is also not a world imperialist power, although certainly its oligarchs have this desire and aspiration. It is a regional power that, in relative terms, is surrounded and under pressure by global imperialist forces. If we considered Russia and Brazil “imperialist powers”, we would have to categorize them as third and fourth level, respectively, and also consider the fact that they are largely penetrated by and dependent on capital from greater imperialists.
The hegemonic imperialist power since the end of World War II is the United States, which has established military bases and an economic presence through investments in practically every corner of the planet. Its power is not even comparable with that of the imperialist powers of Europe (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain) or of Japan, which still retain significant areas of influence, but have so far accepted American supremacy. This forestalled, on the one hand, the occurrence of a third imperialist world war, along with the potentialof total destruction since the emergence of atomic weapons. But it has not prevented the United States from waging an endless series of wars and coups against subordinate and neo-colonial nations that try to escape, even if only partially, from the order they impose. Hence the interventions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, just to mention the most recent ones. The notion created by American imperialism of an “axis of evil” derives precisely from this need to impose its will and deepen its control over these areas. At the moment, the hawkish eyes of American imperialism are aimed at China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
Other imperialist powers, such as France, are running to keep up, and also carry out armed incursions to guarantee their investments, control of raw materials and markets in Africa, a continent where European imperialists are still hegemonic. The European Union is an institution for the dominant imperialist powers of that continent (especially Germany and France) to face the United States in some global disputes while better guaranteeing the domination and exploitation of subordinate European territories.
Imperialism today is a much more complex arrangement than it was a hundred years ago. There are various forms of joint or shared exploitation of the subordinate nations, as well as the formation of various temporary blocks of imperialist powers. Secondary imperialist powers exploit their “areas of influence” in association with global powers, as in the case with Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific, who exploit the neocolonial nations of that region in a joint bloc with British and American imperialists. But it is still a system that leads to insatiable conflict for the division of the world, where agreements are always unstable and temporary.
The increasing loss of the hegemony of American imperialism in disputes with local powers like Russia; the impressive growth and expansion of China’s presence in world trade and their control of certain branches of high technology; and the weakening of the productive forces in the US itself, has created a situation of profound instability and threat of new wars and invasions in the face of the desperate rush of US imperialists to remain at the top.
Marxists recognize the situation of inequality between nations and defend oppressed nations against oppressors. This means exposing and denouncing the predatory exploitation by imperialist bourgeoisies and their interests in subordinate nations, including the submission of the local bourgeoisies, and fighting diplomatic and material forms of pressure (such as economic sanctions) against nations that partially reject imperialist dictates.
In the case of conflicts – invasions, coups and civil wars – provoked by imperialists in oppressed nations, Marxists always take the side that opposes the deepening or intensifying of imperialist exploitation. This falls undoubtedly within the Marxist tradition, which defended semi-colonial China against Japanese occupation and Ethiopia against Italian takeover in the 1930s. It was also the position of the Marxists in the intervention against Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011) by United States. The defeat of imperialist troops and of forces subordinate to the imperialists is also a priority in the Syrian Civil war. The same prognosis is clearly relevant today in the face of new American threats, echoed by their puppets, against Venezuela and Iran. This is a task even when the opposite camp is dominated by bourgeois factions. Marxists must always defend their own program, denouncing all bourgeois factions and not providing them any political support. But the defeat of the imperialist powers and of their local proxies in these conflicts is, in these cases, the preferable outcome.
Chapter 10 – Permanent Revolution
The theory of the Permanent Revolution was formulated in the early 20th century to describe the dynamics and class character of the upcoming Russian Revolution. Then, it was generalized in the 1930s to the capitalist periphery (the non-industrialized or belatedly industrialized countries). It remains crucial to our understanding of the relationship between classes and nations in the global capitalist system and of the transition to socialism on an international level.
Due to the weakness and dependence of the bourgeoisie in peripheral countries in relation to imperialist capitals, the presence of pre-capitalist or feudal landlordism, and their fear of mobilizing an already numerous proletariat with access to socialist ideas, democratic-bourgeois revolutions would not be possible in these nations as they had been in countries of early modernization such as France, England and the US. The conclusion of the theory for these peripheral nations of the imperialist order was that they will no longer be able to rely on independent democratic development. Since they are surrounded by and immersed in imperialist pressure, independence in these conditions tends to be semi-fictitious as long as a dependent local bourgeoisie remains in power. “The complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.” (Trotsky). The proletariat should therefore carry out these tasks at the same time that it begins the tasks of socialist transition.
This theory is out of date only as to the weight of specific democratic and national liberation tasks that the proletariat must carry out once it becomes the ruling class. To eliminate feudal or pre-capitalist property forms; to achieve formal independence by breaking the colonial apparatus; and to establish republican regimes overthrowing pre-capitalist monarchies were tasks for the global periphery in the early 20th century, but which today only subsist in specific cases. Nevertheless, there are still characteristics resulting from these nations’ belated capitalist development which demand a solution. The destruction of the agencies of imperialist pressure and interference in the country; rejection of the payment of debts and loans from the imperialist powers; democratization of the agrarian structure still controlled by the heirs of former feudal or slaveholding lords; building a republican democratic regime that is not often shaken by coups and pressure from the imperialist powers.
As before, the bourgeoisies of peripheral nations are unable to solve these tasks, due to their dependence on imperialist capital since their formation, and only the proletarian revolution can implement them decisively. This makes the class independence of the working class crucial to the realization of consistent anti-imperialist measures.
In a country where the revolution was victorious and the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, the theory of the Permanent Revolution states that in no way does this mean the complete triumph of socialism. Such a society will continue being made up of different classes, even if the bourgeoisie has been expropriated. There are still internal contradictions and external pressures from global capital. The workers’ state will not immediately begin vanishing (and concretely cannot do so). A whole historical period, which may be shorter or longer depending on the course of events, and which will certainly contain advances and setbacks, is still necessary. Class struggle continues in new conditions. The proletariat needs to reinforce its power by bringing ever wider layers of its class into political life and to the exercise of power. The revolutionary party continues to play a crucial role, which is why it must avoid losing its independence from the workers’ state itself.
In international prospects, the theory points to the impossibility of indefinite peaceful coexistence between a workers’ state and the surrounding imperialist world, in part due to the material scarcity of an isolated country, which cannot achieve socialist development alone, but only start this process. In the 1920s and 1930s, Stalinism repeatedly affirmed the possibility that a single country, Russia, could “by its own efforts build a new classless society, a complete socialist society”. But the existence of an isolated proletarian republic, even if at temporary peace with other nations, already presumes the existence of enormous economic pressure. A workers’ state cannot fail to trade with the capitalist world according to rules it does not choose. Isolation also forces it to divert a considerable portion of its resources to maintain a swollen military apparatus in response to imperialist menace. Such conditions hinder the construction of an increasingly participatory proletarian democracy and the process of the disappearance of the state. Thus, the socialist transition does not advance.
In his last writings, Lenin (who was then fighting a battle against the bureaucratization of the Soviet state) commented on the statement of a social-democrat who condemned the Russian Revolution for the fact that “Russia had not reached a level of development of the productive forces that makes socialism possible”. Lenin replied that this was an indisputable fact, but that it did not justify not taking the step of realizing the proletarian revolution, which could initiate the transitional process and assist in triggering the socialist revolution internationally.
The theory of Permanent Revolution resolves this issue by stating that: “The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale… The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena… Different countries will go through this process at different tempos. Backward countries may, under certain conditions, arrive at the dictatorship of the proletariat sooner than advanced countries, but they will come later than the latter to socialism.” (Trotsky).
Chapter 11 – Bureaucratized Workers’ States and the Tasks of the Transitional Epoch
After years of fierce civil war and foreign invasion, during which the proletarian vanguard was physically destroyed to a large extent, proletarian democracy, the necessary regime for the transition to socialism, could not take hold in Soviet Russia. This was also influenced by the inexperience and errors of the Bolsheviks. Despite this, democracy still persisted in the party’s internal debates, in the soviets and in the factories in the early 1920s. In subsequent years, the dictatorship of the proletariat was increasingly bureaucratized, that is, power was concentrated in the hands of state officials, a layer also composed of many elements without political commitment to socialism. The control of companies and the management of the planned economy were increasingly removed from the workers’ grassroots organizations by all-powerful apparatchiks, and not just as a temporary or emergency measure. Debates within the Bolshevik Party were closed and the bureaucracy became uncontrollable.
Many historical leaders of the Bolshevik Party declared war on this process, starting with Lenin himself. Each in their own time and with different degrees of error, were defeated by the political force of the state bureaucrats, a group or social stratum with their own interests, whose power was consolidated in Stalin’s autocracy in the 1930s. With the Moscow Trials, the Soviet Union’s bureaucracy eliminated the remaining political cadres of the Bolshevik Party that had carried out the 1917 revolution, thus consolidating their regime. This outcome was not only the result of an internal struggle, but was also caused by the context of international defeats and the isolation of the revolution, which led to a swelling of the state apparatus and to a weakening of revolutionary disposition among the workers. As a result, the USSR became what Trotsky called a degenerated workers’ state, with a Bonapartist regime of bureaucratic dictatorship (Stalinism).
World War II was the turning point for the Soviet bureaucratized workers’ state. Despite the beheading of the leadership of the Red Army on the eve of the conflict in a wave of executions and arrests by the Stalinist circle, the USSR emerged victorious due to the heroic struggle of millions of combatants and workers. This destroyed the Nazi beast and restored hope for humanity in the twilight of the 20th century, avoiding a colossal catastrophe. The breathing space obtained with this victory, which reduced the isolation of the USSR, allowed the Soviet workers’ state to survive for another 45 years.
The military victory of the Soviet workers’ state led to the occupation of territories in Asia and Europe, although not all were later claimed in the agreements with the triumphant imperialist powers of the US and the UK. In North Vietnam, North Korea and Eastern Europe, the colonial apparatus and the former Nazi-collaborating bourgeois states were effectively destroyed by the Red Army, paving the way for power to come under its protection and influence. In face of enormous pressure from the workers and oppressed masses on the one hand, and the hostility of the native bourgeoisies in collusion with the imperialist powers on the other, this new power proceeded to expropriate the capitalist class. New workers’ states were built “from above”, with the ruling bureaucracy exercising a prominent role from the beginning, eliminating and preventing at all costs the construction of mass democratic organizations of the working class. This bureaucracy used repressive methods to assure its rule, but it also enjoyed enormous popularity following the defeat of Nazism.
Almost at the same time as the USSR’s military expansion into Eastern Europe took place, indigenous revolutions won in Yugoslavia and Albania, which were freed from the Nazi yoke by militias of local resistance headed by the Communist Parties. Having destroyed the bourgeois state apparatus and with the bulk of the economy already previously nationalized by the Nazi occupation, the native bourgeoisies were extremely fragile. Despite initial attempts to include bourgeois representatives in the new regimes, the Communist Parties quickly took the path of establishing deformed workers’ states (bureaucratized since their formation) as a way of securing their power against counterrevolutionary threats, and working class threats to the bureaucracies. They did so in a context of massive proletarian and peasant mobilization for better living conditions and with great expectations in a socialist transformation.
Socialist revolutions also triumphed shortly afterwards in formerly imperialist-dominated nations. The most impressive revolution was undoubtedly the Chinese revolution, in which the Communist Party of China faced the decrepit regime of the nationalist Kuomintang party after the defeat of Japanese occupation and the withdrawal of Allied troops. Even with very little Soviet support, the troops of the People’s Liberation Army led by the CPC destroyed the Kuomintang regime in 1949, relying heavily on the uprisings of rural workers, as well as poor peasants uprooted from their land, and other elements of the country’s rural labor force. Subsequently, urban workers also played a role, with insurrections and factory occupations, leading to an empirical break with the leadership around Mao Zedong with and their project of building a bourgeois-democratic regime, the “New Democracy”. This ultimately forced them onto the path of effective elimination of capitalism in the most populous nation on the planet.
In 1959, an uprising with similar characteristics triumphed in Cuba, destroying the dictatorial bourgeois regime of Fulgencio Batista. This time, the revolution was led by a movement of petty-bourgeois and democratic-radical origin, the M-26 of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. After almost two years of polarization within the movement, with significant pressure from workers, and after a failed attempt of an American imperialist invasion supported by the native bourgeoisie in the Bay of Pigs, the wing inclined to the expropriation of the capitalist class and an alignment with the USSR triumphed.
The counter-pressure to imperialism embodied by the Soviet state gave petty-bourgeois political tendencies in both China and Cuba an alternative to the “democratic” capitalist route. The proletarian movement was not yet sufficiently organized or prepared to fulfill this task of polarizing the oppressed masses around itself, and the workers’ movement did not have Marxist leadership. But even with wobbly leadership, which at various times was inclined to class collaboration, and which did not have an internationalist perspective of transition to socialism, class struggle can, in exceptional cases, lead to the destruction of the bourgeois state and the creation of a different type of power. Later, in the 1970s, there was an expansion of the deformed workers’ state from North Vietnam to the south of the country, reunifying it, and a revolutionary process in Laos, similar to those described above.
The absence of Marxist proletarian parties in these revolutionary events is no reason to ignore their importance and achievements. However, the workers’ movement must not count on exceptional circumstances or that similar events can be repeated without a revolutionary party. Unlike the revisionists in the Trotskyist movement at the time, we do not see in these processes supposed “new strategic paths” for socialist revolution. In the vast majority of cases, class-collaborationist, reformist or centrist leaders at the head of the workers’ movement drown them into frustration, betrayal or demoralization, leading to defeat and into one or another variant of the capitalist regime.
In the cases where revolutions did in fact triumph the elements of bureaucratic deformation make them far from models. In the countries where workers’ states were established, it was still crucial to build Marxist parties, so that they could represent the interests of workers against the ruling bureaucratic elite. This layer acts under the pressure of workers at times and of imperialism at others, but always lacks commitment to the process of transition to socialism, both in its political prerequisites (proletarian democracy), as well as material ones (democratic economic planning and the struggle for the victory of the revolution worldwide).
It was the accumulation of the contradictions of the bureaucratic regime, added to the tremendous imperialist pressure and the delay of the international revolution which led to counterrevolutions in Eastern Europe (1989-90) and the Soviet Union (1991). Such processes were not the result of imperialist invasions, but of the tendencies towards capitalist restoration within the countries, especially pro-capitalist wings in the governing circles of the bureaucracy, eager to become individual proprietors. These events were huge defeats for the workers’ movement across the world.
The bureaucratized workers’ states that still exist today are China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. We unconditionally defend these states and their right to defend themselves against imperialist threats, coups and attacks. We denounce the lies and defamation campaigns of the capitalist media monopolies against these countries. We are also opposed to economic sanctions and blockades which weaken their economies and starve and deprive their peoples.
The governing bureaucracies have undergone different ideological realignments and correlations of forces with imperialism over the years. Experience has shown the impossibility of managing an industrialized economy efficiently with bureaucratic planning alone. Two possibilities emerge from this: incorporating workers into the administration (democratic planning), which conflicts with the political monopoly of the bureaucracy; or accepting the role of the market as a means of allocating investment. Currently, this second road has been taken, supported by the increase in economic pressure from the world bourgeoisie for openings after the fall of the USSR. It led to the creation of a (non-dominant) capitalist sector in the economies of these countries, with which the state has a relation of acceptance and growing dependence. The bureaucratic Bonapartism of these regimes was based from the beginning on mediation between the pressures of the workers and the international bourgeoisie. The creation of native bourgeoisies with social influence did not decisively destroy this balance, but placed it in increasing instability.
We reject the claims that China, Cuba, etc. have become capitalist dictatorships (or even an imperialist power in the case of China) after the economic reforms of the last decades. But we also criticize those who minimize the enormous risks and inequalities created by these reforms and who support the direction taken by the ruling Communist Parties. The statements by the Chinese government, for example, that claim to be “building socialism”, are totally deceptive. If workers do not take the helm of these transitional societies, they will increasingly suffer the risk of counterrevolutions that will re-establish the bourgeois state and realize the full restoration of the capitalist mode of production. The leaders of the Communist Party of China have come up with a new doctrine by proclaiming the perfect harmony between market economy and collectivized state property, so-called “market socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Such an aberration will have a concrete end if it is not defeated in time: the ruin of what remains of the social achievements of the Chinese revolution, leading to a brutal worsening of the workers’ living conditions.
The question of capitalist counterrevolution is posed in the remaining workers’ states, but has not yet been resolved by history. It tends to acquire a clearer shape as economic and social crises arise in these countries. This is especially true in China, where the immensity of the contradictions is only possible due to high rates of economic growth, waiting for moment of crisis to explode with full force. Two possible paths exist: to move ahead towards proletarian democracy based on workers’ councils, or to retreat into an authoritarian bourgeois regime, even if it seeks a “democratic” facade at first. The question of the future Chinese crisis is central to the global revolution and revolutionaries must be able to develop a correct perspective on it.
In the remaining bureaucratized workers’ states, it is necessary to establish proletarian democracies, that is, a political power based on workers’ councils, from which a system of regional and national management bodies is built. The elected representatives of these bodies will be revocable at all times by the proletarian organizations that appointed them, so that they are politically subordinate to the working class and are not, as is the bureaucracy in these countries today, a parasitic layer with enormous autonomy.
Workers’ organizations must review the economy from top to bottom, which in the current circumstances includes renationalizing a large part of private industry and commerce, and expropriating capitalist investments without compensation. They must also carry out a review of the state sector (which is still the fundamental component of the economy) in the interest of the real producers – the workers – eliminating the parasitism of bureaucracy. One of the most immediate effects will be a severe reduction of social inequality.
Marxists fight for the end of all privileges to the ruling bureaucracy. Each state official must receive only the average salary of a worker. Costs for official functions will be payed by the workers’ state, but officials must be prevented from using positions for personal gain. The wealth accumulated by the bureaucrats must be immediately confiscated, unveiling their secrecy.
It is necessary to immediately halt the use of the police apparatus against the movements of workers and the youth who are fighting capitalist restoration and bureaucratic oppression. We want the corrupt despots who contributed to the growth of inequalities and the advance of capitalist relations to face an independent trial by the workers’ organizations. This struggle must lead to the expansion of democratic rights for the working class and its organizations, but not for the bourgeoisie and political groups acting directly under its interest. The newspapers, websites and books of Marxists, militant workers, radical student circles and leftist activists must have full freedom of expression. Full freedom of organization for unions and political parties committed to the defense of the revolution and of its social achievements!
We also want the involvement of the workers’ states in the international arena in favor of proletarian and anti-imperialist struggles, actively supporting them materially and raising a program based on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. No country can reach socialism on its own – revolutionary victory is necessary in several countries, including imperialist centers. For the effective fulfillment of this internationalist role, and of all the other tasks presented here, the rise of a proletarian leadership is necessary – a political revolution of the workers that removes the governing bureaucratic clique from power through an insurrection and subordinates the political-administrative apparatus to working-class organs.
In face of any attempts at counter-revolution coming from imperialists, from native bourgeois forces, from sections of the bureaucracy or even a combination of these elements, we call workers to stand up for the defense of the workers’ states by all available means. Workers in other countries must carry out movements in solidarity, especially those workers in the capitalist countries that are participating in counter-revolutionary attempts. In the event that certain groups of the bureaucracy also oppose the counterrevolutionary forces (even for their own interests), we would defend a practical unity of action on this issue, without at any time abandoning the workers’ political independence and our criticisms of the bureaucracy.
Down with the bureaucratic elite! Long live proletarian democracy! Long live the international socialist revolution!
Chapter 12 – The Theoretical and Programmatic Heritage We Claim
The Marxist proletarian movement reached its highest point in the 20th century with the organization of the Communist International in 1919. Up until its Fourth Congress in 1922, it sought to develop a consistent revolutionary strategy, as well as give material support, to workers’ movements around the world. In 1924, at the Fifth Congress, concessions were made to bourgeois nationalism, with the joining of the Kuomintang party as a sympathizing section, and of Chiang Kai-Shek, soon-to-be executioner of the Chinese Communists in the 1927 revolution, as an honorary member. After this, the CI always took several years to meet, whereas before, even during times of civil war, it had held annual congresses. The last two congresses were marked by debilitating turns for the workers’ movement. The sixth congress (1928) defended an ultra-leftist course that aborted the possibility of unity of action in the workers’ movement against Fascist reaction. At the seventh (1935), it proposed the dissolution of working class independence in coalitions with the “democratic” bourgeoisie (popular fronts). The final formal dissolution of the International by Stalin in 1943 was only the last act in a process of adapting the organization to collaboration with the capitalists.
Several tendencies emerged from the Communist International. We agree with the criticisms and statements of the International Left Opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, and of the Fourth International it founded in 1938. It was built around the best elaborations of the Communist International, while also being critical of the course which began in the Fifth Congress, and expanded, in a creative way, on the most important developments of class struggle in the 1930s. Their analysis is still relevant today for understanding the Marxist political method. Despite this, with the exception of the American (SWP), Bolivian (POR) and Sri Lankan (LSSP) sections, the Fourth International did not achieve a significant rooting in the working class. It suffered the impact of Stalinist slander and persecution, both in the workers’ movement and during World War II, with many of its most important figures in Europe and Asia murdered by Fascists or Stalinist agents (a fate that Trotsky himself received in his exile in Mexico).
The Fourth International was partially rebuilt in the post-war period, but with a leadership that, although skilled in underground work, contained a number of weaknesses. Since the more experienced cadres died during the war and the SWP leadership abstained from playing a more active international role, reorganization was left to the Europeans. This new leadership brought together figures who had not played any prominent role in pre-war Trotskyism (such as Michel Pablo and Sal Santen), some who were very young and politically inexperienced (at the Second World Congress, held in 1948, Ernest Mandel and Livio Maitan were only 25 years old). They also made the mistake of reintroducing directly into the leadership of the movement, people who had left or been expelled from the organization previously, without any serious balance of past disagreements (the case of Pierre Frank). Faced with differences arising from the complexity of the events unfolding in the immediate post-war period, this leadership also resorted to bureaucratic measures to suppress dissenting voices. All this led to multiple political zigzags and theoretical confusion between the mid-1940s and the early 1950s.
In 1951, after a period of intense debate, the new international leadership took a course of adaptation to Stalinism, to the Social Democratic Left and to left-bourgeois nationalism. According to this course, Marxists should play a role of pressuring these political forces to serve as “blunted instruments”, supposedly able to perform the central tasks of the socialist revolution, or at least the beginning of it, in the form of “workers and peasants governments” – re-interpreted as a middle stage in the path to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This amounted to abandoning or hiding criticisms against these political tendencies and largely abandoning the Marxist program itself. Along the same lines, there was the prospect of partial or total organizational dissolution of the sections of the International through “deep entry” into these organizations. There was much acquiescence and little effective resistance to such a course, largely due to the weakness of most national sections and the limited international interest taken by the Americans.
The adoption of Stalinist methods against dissenting voices and grotesquely anti-Marxist explanations to justify political opportunism led to expulsions in the sections in Britain (RCP) and France (PCI), which were the first to rise up against this course. We claim the analyses and criticisms presented by the majority of these two groups (who opposed the International leadership) as an important link of continuity with the program of the Trotskyism. A similar contribution came from the Vern-Ryan tendency, from the Los Angeles local of the American SWP. Such contributions presented a more coherent analysis of the social transformation process in Eastern Europe and China (similar to our current understanding) than was presented by Pablo and Mandel (for whom a gradual transformation had occurred through “structural assimilation” to the USSR). The mentioned groups denounced the liquidationist course contained in the re-evaluation of the role of Stalinism and in the proposal of “deep entry” of Trotskyists into the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties. Because we believe that such contributions are a central part of revolutionary continuity, we have made a systematic effort to translate and make them available in our Historical Archive, to be used in the education of our members and contacts.
The course taken by the International’s leadership in the second half of the 1940s and early 1950s paved the way for the adaptation of the F.I. to the treacherous position of the Bolivian section (POR) in the Bolivian revolution of 1952-53. The POR was oriented towards a utopian, class collaborationist government with the left wing of the nationalist party MNR, with whom they believed it was possible to build a “workers and peasants government” instead of a position of class independence and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They also adjusted their demands and program to the limits accepted by the left-wing of the MNR. The failure of the Bolivian revolution to advance, in which the POR could have played a central role, marked the adaptation of the Fourth International to an inconsistent and vacillating (centrist) policy. Few criticized the path adopted by the POR, which was fully endorsed by the international leadership. The documents of the Vern-Ryan tendency are an important exception and a reference for this issue.
In face of attempted internal manipulation by the European leadership to get rid of the historical leadership of the American section, the SWP launched, albeit very belatedly, a struggle against “Pabloism” in 1953. It identified in the figure of the main European leader, the Greek Michel Raptis (Pablo), the cause of the degeneration of the Fourth International. The American SWP broke from the Fourth International and organized the “International Committee” with some important sections. Despite very correct criticisms, with which we agree, this reaction was not only long overdue, but inconsistent. The International Committee did not organize itself as an opposing pole dedicated to re-building the Marxist movement and reviewing the course of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, but was mainly a formal reunion of all those who wanted to stay outside the F.I. and still associate themselves with the legacy of Trotskyism, not always for good reasons. The groups involved in the International Committee, despite rejecting the liquidationist adaptation of the F.I.’s International Secretariat, did not review the theoretical confusion and the positions developed in the 1940s and early 1950s to explain the transformation of Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia and China, which were the background to the subsequent capitulation – and which were based on an incorrect understanding of Stalinism. The 1953 split meant the end of the Fourth International as a coherent political organization. We value the struggle of the International Committee against liquidation, despite its many limitations and contradictions.
In 1963, as the result of the absence of a serious balance sheet of events, and also of the stagnation of the self-proclaimed “orthodox” and “anti-Pabloist” groups over the years, there was a partial reunification of the movement, which originated the so-called “United Secretariat of the Fourth International”. It maintained the key perspectives developed by Pablo and Mandel in the previous period, which had been partially embraced by the American SWP and other elements of the International Committee, such as the group of Nahuel Moreno in Latin America, in the face of the impact of the Cuban Revolution.
For us, the “revolutionary continuity” of Trotskyism is very fragile, and is not related to a single tendency that was able to maintain and develop the revolutionary program throughout the movement’s years of crisis. Instead, we see revolutionary continuity as the sum of contributions made at different times, by different groups, which have contributed to maintaining, developing and passing on the ideas and practices of Trotskyism. These contributions are for us a fundamental starting point for the reconstruction of the revolutionary Marxist movement.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the “Trotskyist movement” became increasingly involved in splits; many caused by relevant political events, but usually also involving bureaucratic practices, as well as political confusion. A culture of marginalization in relation to the proletariat started to develop, which was also reinforced by the small size of the organizations. Today one can no longer speak of Trotskyism as a movement with a coherent political view. There are several tendencies that may eventually have agreements, but that do not have the same theoretical or political principles and sometimes produce diametrically opposed conclusions and actions. As shown by several events in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, some “Trotskyist” currents leave little to offer when compared to reformist Social Democracy or Stalinist class-collaborationism in their perspectives, except that they are numerically insignificant. In other cases, they shamelessly capitulate to pro-imperialist movements.
The Spartacist League/US (SL), despite its limitations and imperfections, was a positive exception to the complete lack of principles of the rest of the “Trotskyist” currents in the 1960s and 1970s, being yet another link of revolutionary continuity that we claim. Unlike RCP, PCI (which later became the “Lambertist” group) and the Vern-Ryan tendency, the SL managed to develop as a revolutionary organization for some years, inserting itself in the working class and participating in some important struggles. It also managed to break national isolation and launch the embryo of a new revolutionary international organization, with presence in some countries in Europe, Latin America and Oceania. However, due to the accumulated pressure of isolation and the defeats of the working class, it also degenerated, becoming a bureaucratic sect with erratic positions, starting in the 1980s. As this degeneration deepened over the 1990s and 2000s, it is now a grotesque caricature of what it was in the past. Still, we regard their contributions from the 1960s and 70s as fundamental, which is why we also make a systematic effort to translate and publish materials from that time in our Historical Archive.
Similarly, we claim the effort made by the cadres who broke with this organization in the 1980s to rebuild their legacy, which culminated in the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT). The IBT, however, never managed to reach the same level of solidity and insertion in the working class as the SL, due in part to arising in a period of much deeper defeats. Despite important analyzes, the IBT was never able to build any kind of lasting political work in the proletariat or carry out a significant regroupment of Marxists, which culminated in a gradual loss of members, its transformation into a bureaucratic sect with no presence in class struggle, and a repetition of many of the mistakes of the SL. More recently, what was left of IBT split into three tiny competing organizations.
An international proletarian Marxist nucleus (the embryo of a new revolutionary proletarian International) can only be forged around fusions with other groups that are moving towards the same goal, and merging with factions of the workers’ movement in periods of advancing struggles, having clarity at every moment of its objectives. Lessons from previous generations will be important, but such a nucleus will also have much to discover on its own in a new historical moment. We want to intervene to change history: to participate in a regroupment that brings us closer to binding the vanguard of the working class with the consistent Marxist positions, actions and strategy, which are so necessary in our time. This is the most important step in preparing for the socialist revolution. We must not shy away from daring to seek to bring closer and fuse with other currents around the ideas presented here, just as we must not hide them in order to achieve a “unity” that would be false and unstable.
Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action! The future presents enormous opportunities for the development of a political current that knows its place – with the working class – and how to intervene as part of it. The future of humanity without a socialist perspective is bleak. The working class cannot achieve socialism without socialist revolution and transition, tasks for which its vanguard needs to be confident, conscious and selfless. Forging this tradition, this culture of revolutionary Marxist theory and militancy among the working class, is our goal.