ALARM MANIFESTO OF THE OCRFI (Nov. 8-10, 2020)
To the workers, youth, labor activists around the world and to all those who want to put an end to capitalist exploitation
Our 3rd conference of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International is being held in a very particular context. In the name of the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world have taken exceptional measures making free movement of people impossible and calling into question, in most countries, the freedoms of organization and expression, which are the only weapon of the workers in their struggle against capitalist exploitation. Faced with these exceptional circumstances, and determined despite everything to gather the forces of those who are fighting to reconstitute the Fourth International on the basis of its program and principles, we have convened this 3rd OCRFI Conference using new communication technologies. This conference has been prepared by a broad international discussion, with the publication of five internal international bulletins, with contributions by comrades from sixteen national organizations. At the end of three sessions of five hours each, fifteen hours during which the freest of discussion took place, we decided to name this 3rd OCRFI Conference the “Alarm Conference.” We adopted this manifesto.
1/ The Fourth International was founded in 1938 on a program whose basis was the following: the objective conditions for proletarian revolution “have not only ripened; they have begun to get somewhat rotten”; but “without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of humanity.” The Fourth International stated in this program that its founding was the result of “great events: the greatest defeats of the proletariat in history” caused by the betrayal of the Social Democratic and Stalinist leaders: “The Third International, following the Second, is dead for purposes of revolution. Long live the Fourth International!”
This is because, the founding program continued, “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” Hence the conclusion: “The turn is now to the proletariat, i.e., chiefly to its revolutionary vanguard.”
In the period immediately following its formation, the Fourth International had to face the onslaught of the Second World War. While its activists were everywhere struck by repression, while conditions of free movement of workers and activists around the world were made impossible, the Fourth International held a conference that adopted an “Alarm Manifesto.” In it, the manifesto proclaimed that while the imperialist war would bring about terrible destruction, it would also bring about the greatest revolutionary upheavals. These would call into question the existence of the exploitative capitalist regime in the imperialist countries themselves, destabilized by the war, as well as in the colonial empires, where the oppressed and exploited masses would rise up against imperialist domination.
Unlike the 1940 Emergency Conference, our 2020 Alarm Conference is being held in a context where, throughout the world, despite the obstacles and restrictions on freedoms, workers and peoples are rising up against imperialist governments and governments that are relaying their policies. Since the summer of 2019, in Algeria, Chile, Lebanon, Belarus, China, the United States, Indonesia, Thailand, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Guinea, Iraq and India (where the youth movement, joined by key sectors of the labor movement, rose up against the attempt to divide the working class and the exploited masses by discriminating against Indians of the Muslim faith), workers and youth are standing up for their economic demands and for political and democratic demands.
There is no doubt that, in the measures taken by governments, there is a calculation — that is, how best to take advantage of the circumstances in order to stifle freedoms of organization, expression and demonstration. Nevertheless, the continuous development of workers’ mobilizations is a clear indication of the resistance struggles. For imperialism, the time has come to unleash barbarism, the legitimate child of a failed system that can only lead humanity from crisis to crisis. But for the working class, the perspective is quite different: the reconstruction of society on other bases, those of the appropriation of the means of production by the working-class majority.
The time has come to put an end to the failed capitalist system. The time has come to fight for workers’ emancipation, which demands the socialization of the means of production and the transfer of political power to the working class taking control of the economy.
2/ In this context, the holding of our Alarm Conference takes on a special significance. Coming from China, Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Togo, Ivory Coast, Benin, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, Palestine, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, the United States, Canada, Romania, and Serbia, i.e., 35 countries (comrades from Turkey, admitted to the hospital, were unable to attend) — we, delegates, representing the organizations, currents, groups and stakeholders in the workers’ struggle in our respective countries, have come together on November 8, 9 and 10 in this Alarm Conference for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International.
Many of us are members of organizations that for decades have fought for the program of the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938; others among us are working-class activists from other currents. Together we affirm that, more than ever, it is necessary to work for the reconstitution of the Fourth International. Reconstitution based on the relevance of the historical program adopted at the founding conference of the Fourth International in 1938 and on the continuity of the struggle for the reconstruction of the Fourth International that culminated in the reproclamation conference in 1993.
Overcoming the obstacles, we have given ourselves the means to conduct this discussion in this three-day Alarm Conference because we share the conviction that no way out, no future for humanity, is possible within the framework of maintaining this capitalist system based on the private ownership of the means of production. Whatever the forms or illusions about a possible improvement or “humanization” of the system, these have always been shattered by the reality of a capitalist system that knows only one law: profit based on the exploitation of the wage labor force, and which, in order to preserve its profit margins, does not hesitate to destroy en masse the existing productive forces, starting with what is the first of those: the productive force of the worker.
Our experience in the class struggle in our respective countries leads us to consider that millions and millions of workers engaged in the struggle of resistance are not motivated solely by the will to wrest satisfaction of the most immediate demands. Through this struggle, the working class forcefully poses the need for a reorientation of the course of humanity, and therefore a break with the capitalist system. On this agenda is the fight for socialism.
This reorientation requires the construction of authentic workers’ parties in the forms proper to each country, workers’ parties which will only be able to assume the task of the seizure of power by the working class on the condition that they adopt the proletarian revolutionary program of the Fourth International.
To affirm this is not to put forward an ultimatistic course. We know and understand that the processes of the recomposition of the workers’ movement on a new axis are complex and will involve the necessary organization of workers and militants with roots in all the currents that historically have shaped the workers’ movement. But it is our duty, on the basis of the historical experience of the working-class movement for almost two centuries — and armed with the experience of the First, Second and Third Internationals and the long and crisis-ridden history of the Fourth International itself — to affirm the need to endow the revolutionary workers’ parties – whose construction is indispensable – with the theoretical and practical tool, the tool of intervention, that constitutes the concentrated program of the entire experience of the workers’ movement: i.e., the Fourth International. This is so because the objective is not simply the indispensable economic resistance on this or that demand, but the struggle for socialism.
3/ On March 24th, while the COVID-19 epidemic was turning into a catastrophic pandemic affecting all continents, the member organizations of the OCRFI adopted a declaration titled: “The failed capitalist system and the governments that serve its interests: they are guilty and responsible for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic!”
In that statement, we affirmed:
“At the time of this writing, no-one can predict the inevitably disastrous outcome of the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening the lives of millions of men, women and children around the world. On the other hand, the conditions that have allowed and are allowing the pandemic to take on catastrophic proportions, the conditions that are allowing it to spread rapidly across the whole planet, these are known by the workers and peoples of the whole world. They are known because they are the result of all the political decisions taken and implemented for decades by the governments of the big capitalist powers, but also by the governments of the dominated countries on every continent, all of them guided only by championing the interests of the big multinationals, the big banks and speculation.
“These are political decisions that flow from subordinating the whole of human civilization to the law of capitalist profit. The political decisions by capitalist governments – whether they call themselves ‘left-wing,’ ‘progressive’ or right-wing – are dismantling social welfare systems that the workers had won through their class struggle. The political decisions by capitalist governments are dismantling and privatizing public healthcare systems, cutting hundreds of thousands of medical and hospital staff jobs, as well as hundreds of thousands of hospital beds, thousands of hospitals, medical units and local health centres. The political decisions by capitalist governments are financially strangling public basic research, rendering scientists powerless in their research into emerging viruses. The political decisions by capitalist governments are allowing pharmaceutical corporations to accumulate enormous profits through production at the lowest possible ‘labor cost’, resulting in the current shortage of products as simple as masks, testing kits and disinfectant products.
“The political decisions by capitalist governments, like those of the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Canada, are organizing the pillage of the nations of Africa, Latin America and Asia – pillage which, according to UNICEF, has resulted in 3 billion human beings (40 per cent of the world’s population) not having access to soap or running water, and so cannot wash their hands several times a day to limit transmission of the virus. Not to mention the billions of human beings who can only feed themselves once a day.
“To the dramatic consequences of those decisions can now be added the social consequences of the new financial crash, which for months was clearly imminent as a continuation of the 2008-2009 crisis and the onset of which has been speeded by the pandemic. Already, this is being expressed in the announcement of plans for massive lay-offs and job cuts in the automotive, aviation, banking, retail, garment, private power loom and service sectors, to mention just a few.”
4/ Almost eight months since March 24th, this declaration is still fully relevant. Nearly eight months have passed. Humanity is faced with the second wave of the pandemic, which is likely to be even more devastating. Already, some capitalist governments (among those that have failed the most in the face of the crisis) are forecasting that after the second wave a third wave could emerge.
Experts from U.S. finance capital have already baptized the period as “the Other Great Depression” — an explicit reference to the 1929-1933 crisis. The world’s most powerful financial experts base this assessment primarily on the labor market situation in the United States itself. The labor force has undergone an unprecedented shock. In April 2020, 50% of the total labor force — 80 million out of 160 million U.S. workers – were unemployed for at least two months. In October 2020, this unemployment rate is still above 25%. This collapse of the labor market is not cyclical. Most branches of industry have announced plans for tens of thousands of permanent layoffs, in addition to the federal government’s job cuts (more than a million) and the millions of bankruptcies of small and medium-sized enterprises. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers declared that the current pandemic is “the greatest threat to prosperity that the United States has faced since the Great Depression.” On the basis of studies, this political leader of U.S. imperialism estimates the losses to the U.S. capitalist economy from this first wave of COVID-19 at $16 trillion so far, almost equivalent to the annual GDP of the world’s leading capitalist power. And we are still only at the beginning of this pandemic.
This is the reality in the United States and across the globe – not of the economic consequences of the epidemic as such but of the collapse of the capitalist system based on the private ownership of the means of production. It is a collapse which, having matured in the phase preceding the epidemic, has accelerated in this situation. The mass destruction of industrial jobs – more generally of the productive forces – in the world’s leading imperialist power obviously has its corollary in every country and on every continent. According to the International Labor Organisation, in the second quarter of 2020 alone, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs were lost. Workers and companies in the “informal economy” are the most affected. The ILO estimates the number of workers in the informal economy at 1.6 billion (76% of informal work worldwide) significantly impacted by the closure measures, with young people being at the forefront. Wage losses for these particularly vulnerable workers are considerable and are causing a dramatic increase in the poverty rate.
5/ Throughout the world, the situation is marked by this mass destruction of the productive forces and especially of the productive force of the proletariat. Hundreds of millions of jobs have been destroyed within a few months. The most vulnerable sectors of the working class are the first to be affected. Precarious jobs, jobs in the so-called informal sector, fixed-term contracts, dead-end jobs helping students to survive, are generally liquidated without notice, without guarantees, without compensation. Hundreds of millions of workers and their families have thus been thrust into absolute destitution. Women and young people often constitute the majority of workers suddenly deprived of employment, just like the Dalits in India, the Black and Latino workers in the United States and discriminated minorities everywhere. Beyond its most vulnerable, overexploited strata, it is the entire working class – including the most qualified strata, workers with permanent contracts and status – which is today being pushed towards precariousness.
6/ The profound crisis that is manifested in the very heart of the United States, the greatest imperialist power, the keystone of the world capitalist system, is rooted in the growing resistance of workers and young people in the United States, at the vanguard of which is the “Black Lives Matter”. This movement expresses the intervention on the political scene of the most exploited and oppressed strata of the working class: the Black working class. It brings to the forefront the democratic question of effective equal rights for all citizens. In so doing, it attacks the very foundations of the political system through which the capitalist class exercises its domination in the United States.
The Black population, initially enslaved as a means of capitalist accumulation in the United States, has since been kept within an institutional framework that denies them their most basic rights. The revolt that is rising and asserting itself in demonstrations in all the major cities, protesting the assassinations and police brutality, is directed against the very institutions of the State that provide the conditions for capitalist exploitation.
The determination of Black workers and youth to organize to struggle, to forge their own organizations, is a call to all workers, to all the oppressed, to break the stranglehold of the two imperialist parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, to pave the way for the party of all workers, a Labor Party to which the struggle for a Black workers’ party is linked.
7/ This mass destruction of the proletariat (destruction which also takes the form of undermining the guarantees – wrested through the class struggle over two centuries – which have limited and thwarted exploitation) is accompanied at the other end of society by a considerable accumulation of wealth, a veritable explosion of capitalist profits. A report published last September indicates that the 643 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. had already earned US$845 billion in six months. The world’s stock markets are agitated by convulsions whose origin is the flow of liquidity poured out by central banks. Intended to “revive” the economy and employment, these sums are in fact helping the multinationals to restructure, that is, to axe tens of millions of jobs that they consider “unproductive” or insufficiently productive. But – and this is the contradiction – these mountains of liquidity must at all costs find the means to increase their value, and this despite the lack of recovery in consumption.
The fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system in its phase of imperialist decay is expressed herein: on the one hand, the tendency to an unlimited development of the productive forces capable of producing more than what humanity needs in order to live in decent conditions; and on the other hand, the drive for profit, which constantly involves the destruction of the productive forces, further reducing the capacity of the market to absorb all that it would be possible to produce.
The crisis will undoubtedly remain in the entire history of capitalism as the most gigantic destruction of the productive forces on a global scale (apart from the two world wars of the 20th century). But at the same time, because profit must be made at all costs, the budding of parasitic economic activity is experiencing a new upsurge, whether it is speculation, the debt economy, the destructive automation of workplaces or the arms economy.
8/ In the midst of the COVID crisis, the five multinationals of the digital economy (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft) have posted record profits. Their market capitalization is estimated today at US$7 trillion (which is equivalent to the GDP of Germany and France combined). As they all have virtual monopolies in their markets, they have benefited greatly from the pandemic with the development of teleworking, and the digitization of production processes. They are reassured by the affirmation of all governments that they are determined to continue on this path. They have seen their revenues increase by 40% since the period before the pandemic. As for the fortunes of the CEOs of these groups, they are reaching new heights, exceeding $500 billion.
These monstrous records are all the more significant because at the same time the older sectors of oil, aeronautics and automobile are collapsing. Also collapsing are the so-called service sectors, which a few years ago were assured that they would save jobs and which today are cutting jobs by the millions.
9/ Marx’s analysis that “there comes a stage when productive forces are no longer productive but destructive forces” has been verified on an unprecedented scale – destructive forces at the forefront of which Marx placed “mechanization and money.”
Mechanization, which itself replaced living labor (human, productive of surplus value) with dead labor (the machine that transfers part of its value without itself creating new value), has given way to a “super-mechanization” that fulfils the same function, on a scale a million times greater.
As with all technical and scientific progress, one could imagine that, freed from the diktat of production with the sole aim of profit and put at the service of a harmonious development of productive forces, the new technologies would put an end to the physical and moral debasement of the worker, allow a reduction in necessary working time for everyone and freeing up time for self-fulfilment and leisure. But in this capitalist society, mortal is the illusion that the use of new technologies improves the lot of the working class. The reality is the opposite: The digital economy acts mainly as a mass destructive force of human labor. Hundreds of millions of jobs are destroyed or threatened and the collective guarantees wrested by the working class are destroyed on the altar of distance work, individualization, outsourcing, contract-work and self-employment.
All the most elementary human needs are subjected to this profit-making logic. Thus, the fierce struggle over who will first develop vaccines is not a struggle over who will save the human race from the pandemic; it is a struggle over whether or not to establish the hegemony of the main imperialist powers. It is a struggle between States, between multinationals whose only drivers are not the rescue of humanity but the monopolization of new paths of profit.
The same is true of the debt. According to a projection by the Standard & Poor’s rating agency, global debt on a world scale (public debt, personal debt, corporate debt) increased by 10% in the year 2020 alone. It has now reached the astronomical total of US$200 trillion, or more than two and a half years of the world’s GDP from the production of goods. The capitalist leaders are manufacturing this debt of a magnitude unprecedented in history by flooding the markets with trillions of fictitious dollars. It is intended, in the immediate period, to inflate speculation. But beyond that, if the capitalist regime is not brought down first, it will be used for decades to crush the working classes to dismantle all their collective rights and to increase pressures on dominated nations.
The fabric of the world debt can only last on the basis of the hegemonic military might of U.S. imperialism. The debt is also a driving force of the arms economy, another destructive force. In October 2020, a NATO press release reported on the increase in military spending by the 30 countries that make up this alliance, led by the United States. In the midst of the recession, military spending has increased by an average of 4.3% in NATO countries. Together they now spend more than US$1 trillion. The goal (which once seemed difficult to reach) of 2% of GDP committed to military expenditures for each NATO country is now exceeded in the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and France. This is not only because of the contraction of GDP but also because of the absolute increase in arms spending.
This widespread growth of the arms budgets is also related to the role of the parasitic flywheel of a bankrupt capitalist economy. The arms industry, the destructive force par excellence, must also be understood in relation with the wars that are multiplying, dislocating and dismembering the nation-states.
The nation-state was constituted by the bourgeoisie in its ascending phase, as a framework for the development of productive forces and the conquest of the world market. Decayed imperialism challenges the existence of nations, pushing for a policy of dislocation and dismemberment. This takes on various forms as, for example, in the Sahel region, the coalescence of terrorist groups and imperialist military interventions (France in particular). As for the Palestinian people, they are still denied the right to nationhood.
The banner of the struggle for the sovereignty of nations has definitively passed into the hands of the proletariat.
The multiplication of armed conflicts prepares the possibility of wars at another level. The workers do not forget that in 1945 U.S. imperialism did not hesitate to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs, to assert its preponderant position on the world scale. Today, regardless of the risks to the stability of capitalist domination, recourse to generalized war may at some point be affirmed as the only way to attempt to impose a solution to the crisis that is strangling the capitalist system.
10/ Another sign of capitalist barbarism can be seen almost daily with the tens of millions of men, women and children thrown onto the roads to exile, their nations destroyed by the ravages of imperialist-fomented wars, or IMF-World Bank “structural adjustment” plans and corporate “free trade” policies. The images are blood-curdling: tens of thousands of people from across Africa drowned in the Mediterranean; Rohingyas massacred and driven from their land; youth and workers jailed at the border between Mexico and the United States, hundreds of their children held in cages, separated from their families; countless refugees from Syria and the Middle East held behind barbed-wire fences in Europe. The United Nations reports close to 80 million people around the world forced to flee from their homes as the global refugee population more than doubled in the past decade.
11/ On another level, similar threats are piling up with regard to the relationship between humanity and its environment. We, gathered at the Alarm Conference, fully support the founding document of the International Youth Alliance for Socialism (September 2019), when it states that, “Socialism is not a utopia, it is quite simply the only possible way to protect humanity and its environment, and to once again open up the path to progress.” The survival of the capitalist system has unleashed destructive consequences in countless domains. The very existence of humanity is threatened, and therefore, inevitably, humanity’s environment is threatened. These two questions are inextricably linked.
We reject any attempt to regard the threat to the environment as something unto itself, something separate from the destructive forces of humanity, beginning with the destruction of human labor power. Such separation leads inevitably to such phenomena as the “degrowth” movement, which blames “industrial society” and “over-consumption” – not capitalism – for the destruction of humanity’s environment.
This position leads, in the name of the fight against global warming, to the “Sacred Union” with the capitalist class, the very force responsible for the proliferation of the destructive forces of humanity and nature.
The regime based on the private ownership of the means of production is organized on one fundamental inviolable principle: the inalienable right to realize profit by exploiting both the workers’ labor power and nature. This logic is only concerned with short-term interest. The totally anarchic unleashing of capitalist production has produced heinous consequences at the environmental level. From neighbourhoods in big cities of Latin America, where people are living among piles of toxic refuse; to the disaster at the Bhopal chemical factory in India; to the contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan; to the destruction of the Amazon and other essential rainforests, which are key to preserving the ozone layer – all this expresses the fact that the only thing that matters is short-term profit.
Yet it is possible to imagine a society capable of taking into account not only humanity’s short-term needs, but also its historical, long-term needs. Such a society cannot be based on the drive for profit for the few; it must be based on the quest to meet human needs and develop humanity in a totally different, harmonious, relationship with its environment. This requires putting an end to the system of private ownership of the means of production. It requires putting the socialization of the means of production, their collective ownership, on the agenda – and this poses the need for a government by the working class, by the workers’ councils. It poses the need for a working-class revolution overturning the regime based on exploitation.
12/ While they are undergoing dreadful attacks on their living conditions, threatened in their bodies and their very lives, workers have to face the hazard of antidemocratic measures against freedom of speech and freedom to organize that are being decreed by governments using the pandemic as an excuse. Their mobilizations have been repressed most brutally, whether in Algeria, Belarus, Russia, Mali, China and Hong Kong or in Catalonia in the Spanish State. And also, in a dramatic way, in the United States with the near-civil war situation encouraged by finance capital against the uprising of workers and youth protesting the assassination of the Blacks targeted by institutional racism
This use of police and judiciary repression also has been spreading in a large number of imperialist countries said to be democratic. In a very large number of political regimes submitted to imperialism, the general trend is increasingly veering towards anti-democratic, semi-dictatorial (falling little short of totally dictatorial) measures. Everywhere these measures are linked to laws undermining the restrictions to unfettered exploitation that workers have imposed through many decades-long struggles. Everywhere, the laws that protect workers are being threatened or cancelled or made void through generalized deregulation. Thus, to give just a single example, in India, the Modi government has taken advantage of the situation created by the epidemic to make the laws and rules opposing layoffs obsolete.
13/ On a different level, the recent months have been marked by the attempts by U.S. imperialism and the State of Israel’s to finish off once and for all the Palestinian revolution in the name of the Trump-Netanyahu “Deal of the Century,” with the now open complicity of the reactionary Arab regimes. Paradoxically, this determination to expel the Palestinian people to the last man and woman from their lands has dissolved the smokescreen of the so-called “two-state solution,” which actually makes the prospect of a single secular and democratic state the only possible solution.
14/ But it is fact: the frightful destructions and ravages that governments have imposed with the excuse of the pandemic merely fan the fires of revolt against existing governments. In recent months, such fires have erupted around the planet — from the protests against the assassination of George Floyd and institutional racism in the United States, to the mass demonstrations in Belarus, to the marches in the Russian far-East, to the workers’ strikes in Brazil, to the Hirak in Algeria, to the strikes in the United States and in France, to the uprising in Lebanon, etc. The inability of capitalist governments to completely achieve their “Sacred Union” policies is, for a large part, the result of this rejection by the working class and the peoples of this destructive agenda and their instinctive – sometimes chaotic – drive to find the ways of independent organization and action.
On the one hand, the failure of capitalism is plain for all to see. On the other hand, millions of workers and youth are every day becoming aware that what is at stake is the capitalist system itself. So, millions and millions feel encouraged, driven by the circumstances, to push ever wider the resistance struggle against the blows they receive. It is this contradiction that undermines the governments’ situation. They have both to deal the most destructive blows while avoiding the major political destabilization through which the masses will seek to overthrow them. The slogans “Government out!,” “Down with the system,” “They must go, all of them!” which were chanted in August in Beirut are finally making their way across the whole planet. They are becoming especially part of the deep-seated crisis that challenges the most powerful imperialism, the United States. They are visible in the increased fragmentation of Europe; all European imperialist regimes, in a critical situation, are confronted with new contradictions between one another and in their relation to U.S. imperialism.
Across the globe, the capitalist system is wobbling on its foundations, caught between the anvil of its own decaying crisis and the hammer blows of the movement of the masses. That is why everything must be done, both from the point of view of imperialist governments and their direct supporters, as well as from the point of view of the apparatuses rooted in the old working-class organizations, to conceal that what is going on is a class war. They have to try to give substance to the idea that the pandemic is a sort of natural disaster which one and all, bosses and workers, rich and poor have to face on an equal footing and that, consequently, we have to join hands to support the emergency plans that shower thousands of billions on capitalists to find the solution. That is the justification put forward by the majority of the leading apparatuses of working-class organizations to justify their rallying to Sacred Union. And this also includes the renegades of the Fourth International who broke with it during the 2015 crisis and who, within the lapse of a few months, openly gave their support to the corrupt, Bonapartist regimes lambasted by the masses (Bouteflika in Algeria as well as the Francoist monarchy against the Catalonian republic), and who de facto gave their support to candidate Biden and to the Democratic Party in the United States, or who, in France, backed the joint implementation between the government and some union apparatuses of destructive attacks against the workers
15/ Helping the working class find the way toward its emancipation requires fighting the “Sacred Union.” In the March 24 declaration, we wrote: “So, despite their resounding declarations and their current promises, all of the capitalist governments are guilty and responsible for the barbarism that is being revealed by the pandemic. In these conditions, is it not shameful to see the leaders of the political organizations that speak in the workers’ name rally round in a Sacred Union with the capitalist governments in several countries around the world? Is it not shameful to see parties that speak in the workers’ name support the existing capitalist governments, precisely at a time when the latter are passing ‘state of emergency’ measures in the various parliaments, measures that are extending the capitalist governments’ offensive against social gains and democratic rights? Although they know that health measures for slowing down the pandemic are necessary, nevertheless the workers do not conclude from this that they must fall into the trap that is being set for them in the form of a Sacred Union with the exploiters and their governments. The workers are entitled to demand of every organization that speaks in their name that it immediately breaks with the Sacred Union which their leaders have established with the capitalist governments”.
Nothing that is going on today would be possible outside this “Sacred Union,” which has been de facto sealed internationally and in each country. The 2020 “Sacred Union” does not always take the same forms as the one struck in 1914-1918 (though it sometimes does). It does not necessarily imply participating in imperialist governments (though that is the case in many countries). The “Sacred Union,” de facto agreed to today by the leaders of the official working-class movement in the majority of countries, is based on their submitting to the regime of the private ownership of the means of production. But precisely, the root cause of the major crisis affecting humanity is this regime. The fact that the leaders of the working-class movement accept to recognize its power creates the framework in which devastating policies can be implemented.
Are we exaggerating? In every part of the globe, the leaders of the major parties claiming to speak, more or less, on behalf of the workers have supported the programs rescuing Capital and the banks. On March 19 in France, the deputies of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party in the National Assembly unanimously voted for the plan proposed by Macron that awards 343 billion Euros (since increased to 560 billion!) to the banks and the capitalists. In Britain, the Labour Party Members of Parliament – including the party’s left-wing – actively participated in the consensus for approving a similar “recovery plan” without even a vote in Parliament. In addition, the leadership of the Trade Unions Congress, (TUC) — with the blessing of the leadership of Labour — proposed to the conservative government to set up a “National Recovery Council” that has only one purpose: to put the trade unions under the yoke of the employers and the government. In Germany, the SPD leadership has long been mired in the “Grand Coalition” with the bourgeois parties. In the Spanish State, it is the government of the “socialist party” PSOE, together with Podemos and what is left of the Communist Party who are at the helm of the State, from where they are rescuing the capitalists at the expense of workers. This is true as well in Portugal, under the leadership of an SP government, which has declared a state of emergency and banned strikes in the name of fighting the pandemic. And what can be said, in Brazil, of the vote of the Workers Party (PT), the Communist Party of Brazil and the PSOL, which supported the Bolsonaro-Mouraro government measures freezing the wages of public-sector workers, lowering the wages of private-sector workers and offering 1,200 billion Reais to the banks and capitalists? Quite a number of other such examples could be given.
16/ It is up to those wishing to remain faithful to the historic fight of the working class to put forth, in each and every circumstance, the perspective of socialism, therefore of the workers’ government which will achieve the socialization of the means of production. Such a perspective, if it is to ensure the future of humanity, must incorporate an immediate emergency plan to safeguard the working masses. The proletarian revolutionaries are the only ones capable of raising this issue in its entire dimension. For instance, such a plan based on the needs of humanity and not on profit, raises necessarily the question of banning layoffs, underscoring the principle that the economy must be based on safeguarding each and every job. This is the time to put forth the slogan of the transitional program, “On this basis, all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers… The average wage of every worker remains the same” and to do this, if necessary, to confiscate capitalist profits or even the trillions that are handed out by current governments; it is time to raise the question of “nationalization without purchase nor compensation” – i.e., expropriation.
The period that we have entered makes it a necessity for those who want to reconstitute the Fourth International to implement the method of the transitional program, starting from the need to reorganize the whole of production and society on the basis of the right of working people to live. The plan of proletarian reconstruction prioritizes the advance of scientific research, freed from the demands for profitability and profits, and the setting up of a nationalized industry to produce vaccines (as soon as they have come into being), to produce face masks and tests, produce hospital beds, ensure the formation of nurses, healthcare personnel and doctors as a national priority. Let us build hospitals and reopen those that have closed. Let us kick-start production and ensure that all absolutely necessary means of transport are made available… Let us hire teachers, build schools, which would make it possible to have small groups of pupils and respect social distancing. Now is the time to manufacture more and more trains where they have been eliminated, and manufacture computers so each child forced by the government to learn online can have a computer available, etc.
From Lebanon to the United States, from Belarus to France, each mass mobilization hears the word “revolution” ringing from the marches. In this way, millions are expressing their pressing need to overthrow the current regimes and break with existing institutions. Many of these processes underline the full relevance of the Marxist theory of permanent revolution: the smallest democratic demand, the slightest demand for the national sovereignty of oppressed peoples collides head-on with decaying imperialism and makes the working class the only social force that can take the lead of the combat for democracy and sovereignty, linking those tasks with the tasks of the struggle for socialism.
There is a chasm between the objectively proletarian nature of many current revolutionary processes and the awareness of those who are the actors of those processes. This chasm expresses to what point the solution to the crisis of humanity requires the solving of the crisis of leadership of the working class. As is affirmed in the Transitional Program, “overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard are the raison d’être of the Fourth International. This task is more urgent than ever.” This is what’s at stake in the combat for the reconstitution of the Fourth International.
17/ During the first weeks of the second imperialist war Trotsky formulated the following prognosis in a text titled, “The USSR in War” (September 25, 1939): “If this war provokes, as we firmly believe, a proletarian revolution, it must inevitably lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the USSR and regeneration of Soviet democracy on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in 1918. … If, on the contrary, it is conceded that the present war will provoke not revolution but a decline of the proletariat, then there remains another alternative: the further decay of monopoly capitalism, its further fusion with the State and the replacement of democracy wherever it still remained by a totalitarian regime. The inability of the proletariat to take into its hands the leadership of society could actually lead under these conditions to the growth of a new exploiting class from the Bonapartist fascist bureaucracy. This would be, according to all indications, a regime of decline, signalling the eclipse of civilization. An analogous result might occur in the event that the proletariat of advanced capitalist countries, having conquered power, should prove incapable of holding it and surrender it, as in the USSR, to a privileged bureaucracy. Then we would be compelled to acknowledge that the reason for the bureaucratic relapse is rooted not in the backwardness of the country and not in the imperialist environment but in the congenital incapacity of the proletariat to become a ruling class. Then it would be necessary in retrospect to establish that in its fundamental traits, the present USSR was the precursor of a new exploiting regime on an international scale.”
Taking up this same alternative prognosis in a different form, Trotsky states:
“If contrary to all probabilities the October Revolution fails during the course of the present war, or immediately thereafter, to find its continuation in any of the advanced countries; and if, on the contrary, the proletariat is thrown back everywhere and on all fronts – then we should doubtlessly have to pose the question of revising our conception of the present epoch and its driving forces. In that case it would be a question not of slapping a copy book label on the USSR or the Stalinist gang but of re-evaluating the world historical perspective for the next decades if not centuries: Have we entered the epoch of social revolution and socialist society, or on the contrary the epoch of the declining society of totalitarian bureaucracy?”
This alternative prognosis obviously did not come true in the form in which Trotsky had formulated it. This question remained more or less pending as long as the fate of the USSR had not been settled. It reappeared with some force after 1989-91, when it became clear that despite unquestionable workers’ uprisings, the working class of the former Soviet Union had not achieved a political revolution, overthrowing the bureaucracy and restoring democracy to the soviets. Trotsky’s prognosis was not realized in the form he had indicated – since proletarian revolution did not emerge victoriously from World War II, nor did political revolution in the former USSR – so then, should one conclude that the perspective of proletarian revolution was no longer on the agenda? Was it necessary to conclude that the Fourth International no longer had a raison d’être?
Trotsky’s alternative prognosis deserves to be revisited. But first of all, let us remind those who would ironically point out Trotsky’s error of prognosis what Trotsky wrote precisely about prognoses: “Every historical prognosis is always conditional, and the more concrete the prognosis, the more conditional it is. A prognosis is not a promissory note that can be cashed on a given date. Prognosis outlines only the definite trends of the development. But along with these trends a different order of forces and tendencies operate, which at a certain moment begin to predominate. All those who seek exact predictions of concrete events should consult the astrologists. Marxist prognosis aids only in orientation.” (Balance Sheet of the Finnish Events, April 25, 1940)
True, the first term of the alternative (the victory of the proletarian revolution right after the Second World War) was not realized. But one has to acknowledge that the second term was not realized either: monopolistic Capital has not merged with the State and democracy has not disappeared, replaced by totalitarian regimes, either — though, on the international level, the elements of political democracy are getting increasingly thinner and elements of totalitarian regime are growing in strength in developed capitalist countries. In the present phase, a privileged bureaucracy has not emerged either, nor has it asserted its hegemony. The bureaucracy as such has become disjointed after 1989-1991 and has become a galaxy of mafioso gangs more or less closely linked together and, above all, subordinated to world imperialism. It is not true either that after the Second World War the proletariat was set back on every front. On the basis of the facts of the historic process as it developed, we have to analyze why Trotsky’s prognosis failed to be realized and, on the other hand, establish a detailed development of the facts and their present consequences.
A revolutionary proletarian process indeed took place on the world scale at the end of the Second World War: revolutionary outbursts, formation of working-class organizations and structures over practically the entire European continent, independence of India opening a cycle of decolonization, victory of the revolutionary process in China (true, with a political power immediately confiscated by the bureaucracy resulting from the Stalinist apparatus but which nevertheless resulted from the expropriation of the capitalist property relations in the world’s most densely peopled country). The expropriation of capital through bureaucratic and military means was equally the norm in the Eastern half of Europe and, in other forms, processes similar to China took place in North Korea and Vietnam.
In the capitalist countries themselves, a powerful revolutionary proletarian wave mounted, threatening Capital’s domination in France and in Italy. The full counter-revolutionary cooperation between imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy was needed to impose counter-revolutionary order through the division of Europe and the world into zones of influence. In developed capitalist countries, the apparatuses and especially the Stalinist apparatus bestowed with the prestige of the victory against Nazism (in which the peoples of the Soviet Union had played a major part), played an essential role in reinstating the bourgeois order. But to accomplish this, the bourgeoisie had to pay a price; it had to concede sizeable gains to the working class. That was the price to be paid for re-establishing the regime of capitalist exploitation. But, contradictorily and dialectically, this boosted considerably the proletariat’s social and political clout in all developed capitalist countries, which made it possible for them to wrest important gains which, seventy years later, have not been dismantled, far from it (though they have sustained major blows since their inception). The effect of this process was to build, thanks to workers’ gains in wages and other fields, a consumers ’market in developed countries, which for a certain period fostered an expansion of production.
On the international level, during the 1940s and ’50s nearly half the world population lived in countries where the capitalist ownership relationships were expropriated. This provided support to the working-class movement. Contradictorily, this process also resulted in strengthening Stalinist counter-revolutionary apparatuses and more generally, the counter-revolutionary apparatuses within the working-class movement, which gave them an increased power to contain and push back the revolutionary tides.
Up until the end of the 1980s, imperialism jumped on each opportunity to reinstate capitalism in every country where it had been expropriated, while maintaining a counter-revolutionary alliance with the Stalinist bureaucracy (because that was the price to pay to keep the world order against the working class).
And yet, it is well known that the Stalinist bureaucracy whose fate depended on maintaining State property in the former USSR showed itself incapable of defending it (here in conformity with Trotsky’s prognosis). Faced with the processes of political revolution in Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, with the development of an increasingly proletarian movement in the former USSR itself, it was given the final death blow by the development of the revolutionary process in Germany which, in 1989, imposed the unity of the German working class against the holy alliance passed between imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy.
At the same time, because of the absence of a revolutionary party of the Fourth International fighting for the socialist unity of Germany, the apparatuses managed to contain the revolutionary movement of the German proletariat. As the proletariat imposed unity, imperialism and the apparatuses took action to fit this unity into the extension of the private ownership of the means of production to all of Germany (instead of the extension of State property). Consequently, the dismantlement of State property and privatization resulted in dreadful destructions.
And yet, it must be stated that a bureaucratic caste did not emerge from this process spreading to the whole world nor that capitalism was given a new impulse. Quite the opposite (as was analyzed during the conference of re-proclamation of the Fourth International): It was the onset of a quickened decomposition process of capitalism. The mafias resulting from the former bureaucracy heralded a generalized “mafiosization” of the world economy. A parasitic and plundering economy has become the norm.
During the three recent decades, faced with that decomposition, class struggle has more than assumed the role of history’s driving force. The current social regime is still the exploitation of labor force, of extortion of surplus-value in growingly tough conditions of increasing the value of Capital. And more than ever, this exploitative regime fuels the resistance to exploitation. The laws of Capital are working in growingly difficult conditions, which increasingly sheds cruder light on the impasse of a capitalist system without a future, a capitalist system leading to barbarism, confirming Trotsky’s prognosis.
But barbarism is not a done deal. More than ever, socialism founded on the socialization of the means of production appears to be the only alternative. Less than ever should the ground of the proletariat be deserted. Those who caused the split in 2015 rallied to reformism in its worst form, the one that goes along with counter-reforms and destruction. They rallied around Bouteflika, the Democratic Party in the United States, Lula in Brazil and against the working-class movement, they joined movements like the yellow vests in France. But the working-class movement continues to point to the only option that offers a solution in the situation. This means that it is crucially important to give the needed help to the recomposition of the working-class movement on a new axis, class independence. It is the specific part of activists who are fighting for the Fourth International on the field of Marxism to contribute to it.
18/ Relations between China and the United States have been marked by an increasing escalation in the period preceding the emergence of the pandemic. The roots of this escalation have to do with the very nature of the Chinese State. The People’s Republic of China was born out of a revolutionary process that in 1949 saw the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie. Its peculiarity is that from the moment the bourgeoisie was overthrown, political power was confiscated by a social stratum removed from the control of working people: the bureaucracy that emerged from the apparatus of Stalinism.
It is indisputable that this bureaucracy, especially in recent decades, has worked systematically to open up the Chinese economy, which has been founded since 1949 on the monopoly of State property, to imperialist penetration, especially by the U.S. multinationals.
The specific character of State property has been expressed in the very way the Chinese leadership has dealt with the pandemic. Forced to mobilize the immense resources of State property, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has, as a matter of fact, got people out of hospitals in a matter of days (which has not been the case in any of the capitalist powers of Europe and North America). But after mobilizing these gigantic means (which was made possible by the fact that the bureaucracy centralizes State power and the State itself still centralizes ownership of large sectors of the productive forces), the Chinese bureaucracy hastened to make the working class pay for the consequences. The workers should above all not be allowed to see this as an encouragement to act independently on their own terrain; this is the viewpoint of the Chinese bureaucracy. In no way should the Chinese working class be allowed to seize the opportunity to intervene in its own name. Hence the particularly brutal measures taken by the bureaucracy against the workers and youth in Hong Kong, aimed at terrorizing not only this component of the Chinese population, but through it, all sectors of the proletariat.
This is especially the case because, contrary to all the self-serving propaganda rhetoric that for years presented China as a new El Dorado of capitalism, the brutality of the crisis has caused the destruction of 200 million jobs in China. Hence the entirely contradictory aspect of this situation. The Chinese bureaucracy, which has provided cheap labor with no rights to multinational corporations around the world, has created the conditions for a rapid and massive concentration of productive forces (at the cost of destroying productive forces in other countries). As a result, it has increased its dependence on the world market and, more precisely, on U.S. finance capital. When the crisis arrived, the mass destruction of productive forces was projected directly onto China, whose goods (unlike during the previous phase) were no longer welcome in the entire world and whose labor was no longer needed. China was impacted directly by the dislocation of the global economy.
This settles the question raised periodically by the capitalist press: Can U.S. leadership in the world economy be jeopardized by “Chinese competition”? The answer is No, not in any way. Since capitalism reached its highest stage, imperialist powers have no longer tolerated the development of autonomous industrialization in “emerging” countries whose economies should henceforth be only a part of the world division of labor controlled by international imperialism. The violence of Trump and his administration against China for years testifies to the fact that it is not acceptable to U.S. imperialism that any economic development should be able to take place in any country, especially in a country whose economy, resulting from the 1949 revolution, rests on the social basis of the expropriation of capital.
The fact is that today China, with its 350 million to 400 million proletarians, is directly affected by the world crisis. In the previous phase China played an essential stabilizing role for imperialism by providing it with an over-exploitable labor force controlled by the bureaucratic apparatus and its arsenal of repression. Nevertheless, this complex interdependence between China and the U.S. has not at this stage destroyed the social base concentrated in State ownership.
China’s crisis stimulus packages are confronted with the fact that the increase in production would require a call-up from the world market. The Chinese economy is too dependent on the world market for a stimulus plan to be based primarily or even mainly on boosting domestic consumption. The export sector is an indispensable and major driving force for the functioning of the economy as a whole. In this context, imperialism has been and is led to multiply threats, including military threats, against China, aimed at destroying obstacles to the free movement of goods and capital, which, for the moment, keep preventing the definitive collapse of State ownership. It is not tolerable for U.S. imperialism that this economy of considerable dimensions should be controlled by anything other than the quest for profit and therefore the needs of U.S. imperialism itself.
For the Fourth International, it is clear that the offensive of U.S. imperialism is aimed at the complete dismantling of State property in China, as it did in the past with regard to the Soviet Union. If it succeeds, it will be a major blow not only to the Chinese proletariat, but also to the world proletariat. That is why the Fourth International stands for the unconditional defense of China against U.S. imperialism. Unconditional means without any “conditions” addressed to the bureaucracy. In this support there is no illusion that the bureaucracy will be somehow bestowed with a historically progressive mission.
The resistance of the Chinese working class puts the demand for democracy at its center. This is why the Fourth International, which is unconditionally in favor of the defense of State property in China, does not entrust any historical mission to the bureaucracy and considers that the surest way to preserve the conquests of the 1949 revolution is the struggle by which the Chinese working class in all its components seeks to impose its right to self-organization, to build its independent organizations. It is on the terrain of its independence (including from the bureaucratic State apparatus) that the Chinese working class will preserve its conquests. For the Fourth International, the fate of the Chinese people cannot be dissociated from the international class struggle.
19/ Our OCRFI Emergency Conference is being held the day after the U.S. presidential election. Given the pre-eminent role of U.S. imperialism on a global scale, this election is in itself an international event.
Trump’s “America First” motto has guided all U.S. foreign policy. This policy was not aimed at setting up a “ world order.” It intended to affirm U.S. capitalist hegemony by all means and under all forms. To this end, Trump turned his back on a whole series of multilateral international institutions: the UN, IMF, WHO, ILO, etc. Biden, Trump’s successor, is not going to turn back the clock on the unflinching determination to expand the economic power of U.S. finance capital. But it is a fact that during his election campaign he said he would take action in this direction by restoring the presence of the United States in a number of multilateral institutions of the old “world order,” with the aim of giving a semblance of legitimacy to this permanent effort to expand U.S. imperialism. In the same way as Biden is going to attempt to reinstate “partnership” structures aimed on the domestic front at co-opting trade union leaders and cajoling them into accepting the destruction of jobs and social services in the United States, he said similarly that he would renew international alliances — this, so as to provide a cover for the increasing onslaught of imperialism on the workers and oppressed peoples the world over.
Thus he announced that he would rejoin the Paris climate accord, that he would restore the role of the United States in NATO and rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He said this renewed display would be reactive, in order to restore the position of U.S. global leadership and also – he pointed out – to repel the growing threats “to our national security.”
Is Biden really going to implement this program? Or is he going more or less to keep moving on the path opened by Trump? The answer to that question will be given later in connection with the newly elected president’s need to defend by all means necessary the specific interests of U.S. capitalism.
Palestine is one of the questions at stake. Trump rejected any so-called “two-state solution” and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He gave carte blanche to increasing attacks against the Palestinian people by the State of Israel. He incited Arab states to recognize the Zionist State, which is also Biden’s policy. Is Biden going to revive the plan for the so-called “two-state solution” while sponsoring the strangulation of Gaza and the expansion of Israeli settlements that actually create increasingly smaller Bantustans and drive Palestinians off their land? Or is he going more or less to agree to consider what Trump had done as a fait accompli and, for example, renounce bringing back his Jerusalem embassy to Tel Aviv? We shall soon know about all those issues.
In any event and to put it briefly, Biden is going to try to impose U.S. imperialist hegemony by all means necessary.
20/ It is under these conditions that help for the reconstruction of the workers’ movement on an independent axis can and must take place from the starting point of the international situation of the working class. The relevance of the demands of the Transitional Program — starting from the immediate demands and leading inexorably to the necessity for the working class to take power in its own hands — is today more crucial than ever. What follows from this is the need to work for the reconstruction of the political representation of the working class.
Advancing towards the reconstitution of the Fourth International is inseparable from helping the processes through which different currents, militants, groups, and organizations from different countries and continents and from different backgrounds can be brought to pose the problem of building independent workers’ parties. The activists who come together on the program of the Fourth International do not pretend to dictate their views. They aspire to be part of this process in a fraternal dialogue, in common action within the framework of the International Workers Committee for the Workers’ International, while preserving their independence in expressing and propagating the positions of the Fourth International. The organizations of the OCRFI will contribute, together with activists of all tendencies, to carrying out of the international questionnaire initiated by the IWC in preparation for the Second International Conference against War and Exploitation. Starting from the consequences of the pandemic for the working class and the peoples of the world, it will help to establish on the basis of facts the responsibility of the capitalist governments and those who do their bidding.
21/ We have demonstrated this: The situation is marked by the fact that in all countries and on all continents the leadership of the organizations that have historically been constituted by the working class, parties and trade unions, are committed to the “Sacred Union” with the bourgeois governments.
Affirming this does not mean that the workers have given up using these instruments historically derived from their class struggle to defend their interests. Situations differ from country to country according to the national traditions of the class struggle. But it is a fact: although all are in one way or another part of the Sacred Union, political parties and unions do not have the same function. The unions generally maintain a different relationship with the working class, of which they constitute “the elementary form of the united front” (Trotsky), than the political parties. Whether they remain in a number of countries organically linked to workers’ parties or not in others, the fact is that the power of the class struggle leads the workers to seek to reclaim “from the bottom up” their trade union organizations. The “worker-bourgeois” apparatus of most traditional trade union organizations is increasingly bourgeois (i.e. subordinate to the State) as it rises to the top. But it remains more and more working class, i.e. linked to the demands of the working class and its movement, when you move “downward” toward the rank and file (which does not mean that even at the bottom, the workers are not subordinated to the bourgeois apparatus. Total independence in relation to the State and to the capitalist class is only possible when the unions are led by militants consciously committed to the path of proletarian revolution, therefore to the program of the Fourth International).
The movement of the working class seeks to reclaim in all countries the trade union organizations for strikes and mobilizations, including political struggles. In many cases it forces the summits not to go all the way toward corporatist co-optation and integration. It is this movement of the working class that preserves the working-class character of the trade union organizations. That is why more than ever it is crucial to adhere to the recommendation of the Transitional Program regarding the unions. “It is necessary to establish this firm rule: self-isolation of the capitulationist variety from mass trade unions, which is tantamount to a betrayal of the revolution, is incompatible with membership in the Fourth International.” Let us recall what Trotsky wrote in his last text before he was assassinated: “Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations.” We remember how Trotsky dealt with this question “The trade unions of France, Great Britain, the United States and other countries support completely the counterrevolutionary politics of their bourgeoisie. This does not prevent us from labelling them trade unions, from supporting their progressive steps and from defending them against the bourgeoisie.” So a union can be both led by a counter-revolutionary apparatus that defends the bourgeoisie and at the same time take progressive steps that lead us to defend it against the bourgeoisie. This is not contradictory. And Trotsky continues: “From the point of view of our program, the trade union should be an organization of class struggle. What then should be our attitude to the American Federation of Labor (the American right wing union)? At its head stand manifest agents of the bourgeoisie, upon all essential questions, … they carry out a political line directly opposed to the interests of the proletariat. … This apparatus has definitely become a reactionary factor. But the AFL does not because of this cease to be an organization of the trade unions.” And Trotsky explains: “The class character of the State is determined by its relation to the forms of property in the means of production. The character of a workers’ organization such as a trade union is determined by its relation to the distribution of national income.”
In other words, the union that only defends – even if it merely defends – the share that the working class wrests of the nation’s income is a factor in the defense of the working class, even if it adapts itself completely to the government for the rest. And Trotsky adds: “The AFL leadership, in order not to lose their base, must within certain limits (obviously, these last concentrate the problem) lead the struggle of the workers for an increase – or at least against a diminution – of their share of the national income. This objective symptom is sufficient in all important cases to permit us to draw a line of demarcation between the most reactionary trade union and an organization of scabs thus we are duty-bound to carry to defend the AFL.”
This is because the working class is nothing without organization.
In the recent period, numerous political currents – the same ones that renounce the struggle to end the capitalist system – call for abandoning all forms of organization of the workers’ movement (unions and parties) to dissolve into informal movements dismissing any class character. The Fourth International unequivocally rejects all attempts to deny the need to build class-based organizations.
22/ “Open the road to the youth! Open the road to women workers!”
This call, issued in the concluding pages of the founding program of the Fourth International, finds its translation in the activity of the organizations of the OCRFI.
The defense of the specific rights of women workers, in the present situation, is of particular importance. They are the first victims of governmental policies. The situation over the last few months confirms this: They have been on the front lines during the COVID crisis due to the jobs they hold (in the sectors of homecare, hospitals, large-scale distribution, home-care, cleaning, etc.). Women workers also have had to face, due to the shelter-in-place decrees established in many countries, the difficulties caused by distance learning due to the absence or under-equipment of computers, cramped housing, etc.
In several countries, in recent years, initiatives have been taken by OCRFI organizations to combat this specific double exploitation and double oppression, thus responding to the concerns of working women on the occasion of March 8 in Pakistan, France, the United States, Italy, etc. In Mexico, the campaign against the assassination of working women is linked to the struggle against capitalist exploitation, which is at the root of this barbarism.
In light of these initiatives, the organizations of the OCRFI decided to give the utmost importance to this struggle and to discuss the initiatives to be taken as well as on the implementation of a global campaign, at the international level, in favor of working women.
In the same way, the organizations of OCRFI pay the greatest attention to the younger generation. It is significant that they have been in the forefront of class struggles and popular uprisings in the last period, as they are the hardest hit by capitalist barbarism. From the revolt of Chilean high school students against the increase in the price of subway tickets to the special role played by youth in Mali in August when all the political forces called for a truce in the confrontation against the regime of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, from the uprisings in Iraq to the mass mobilizations in Hong Kong, in various forms, a new generation of fighters is forging its weapons and experience in the confrontation against the capitalist regime, alongside the working class and its organizations.
The third international conference of the OCRFI welcomes the formation of the Youth Alliance for Socialism, which brought together in August 2019 in the Paris region young people from Algeria, Azania/South Africa, Belgium, Brazil, the United States, France, Morocco, Mexico, Palestine and Russia. It is particularly positive that its Liaison Committee meets every month, with the participation of young people who are not necessarily OCRFI activists, and which is a framework for discussion and action, the elaboration of communiqués, brochures, articles and permanent international campaigns
Thus, despite multiple attempts to divert it from the fight for socialism and confine it to specific issues separate from the working-class movement, the youth are resisting and fighting. They assert their right to a future. Young people all over the world, we summon you to join the ranks of the world party of socialist revolution.
23/ Determined to reconstitute the Fourth International on the basis of its historic program, we do not ignore the fact that the class struggle, while it is international in its content, remains national in its form. We believe, however, that in all countries the question of the struggle for a government of the workers of the towns and countryside must be brought to the forefront in the face of the bankruptcy of all current governments unable to counter the pandemic, whether they are “classic” capitalist governments or governments in which the old parties that emerged from the workers’ movement or even composed essentially of them participate.
With the Transitional Program, we affirm:
“The central task of the Fourth International consists in freeing the proletariat from the old leadership, whose conservatism is in complete contradiction to the catastrophic eruptions of disintegrating capitalism and represents the chief obstacle to historical progress. The chief accusation which the Fourth International advances against the traditional organizations of the proletariat is the fact that they do not wish to tear themselves away from the political semi-corpse of the bourgeoisie”.
With the Transitional Program we say:
“Of all parties and organizations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name, we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers’ and farmers’ government.”
24/ In our statement of March 24 we wrote: “What measures appropriate to the situation would a government take if it was genuinely concerned to protect the health of the vast majority?”
Such a government would place the entire production apparatus under state control and immediately direct it towards producing goods that are indispensable for stamping out the epidemic: masks, testing kits, disinfectant products, medicines, etc. It would organize the systematic testing of the whole population. To do so, it would not hesitate to requisition the big enterprises (starting with the pharmaceutical corporations) and the banks’ assets. Such a government would immediately reopen all hospital facilities that have been closed down, it would requisition all available premises needed to house as soon as possible the hospital facilities and life support units that are indispensable for meeting current and future needs. Such a government would take the billions from where they are today, in order to ensure that medical care is free to all, and that the funding is there for all the medical staff and equipment that are needed to run hospitals properly.
Such a government would organize the containment of the whole population, in particular by obliging businesses to guarantee the payment of wages to all employees who are isolating themselves at home. And in the dominated countries, where the vast majority of the workforce is in the ‘informal sector’, without regular wages or guarantees, such a government would guarantee to each worker an income to live on satisfactorily during the period of confinement. It would organize the distribution of the foodstuffs and basic subsistence products needed by the population. Such a government would nationalize or renationalize basic research, and would allocate to scientific teams the funds needed for research into emerging viruses and other diseases. Such a government would proceed immediately with the requisition of residential buildings and would house all homeless and badly housed people, for whom the ‘containment’ measures that have been announced are meaningless as long as they do not have a home.
Such a government would decree an immediate halt to evictions, it would declare a moratorium on the payment of rent and rental charges, it would decide to immediately ban lay-offs and job cuts. Such a government would order price controls on basic necessities and medicines, in view of the fact that the major retail chains and pharmacy chains are pushing up prices everywhere on the pretext of the pandemic and the economic crisis. Especially in order to do this, such a government would requisition the big powers’ military budgets, which today continue to fund imperialism’s military interventions against the peoples. More generally and irrespective of the country, such a government would redirect credits allocated to the military towards the needs of the hospitals.
Such a government would immediately stop servicing both the domestic and external debt. It would confiscate the billions tied up in speculation (especially the speculation currently being carried out by the big corporations in relation to the fall in the value of their own shares!) and apply them to servicing the healthcare needs of the vast majority. Because a government that would take such measures which are needed for the survival of working people, measures that are contradictory to the demands of the capitalist class, would not hesitate to break with that class.
For our part, organized in the OCRFI and fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International, in each of our countries we declare ourselves in favour of forming such governments that will exclusively serve the interests of the vast majority, and we will support any step by the working-class organizations in this direction. Governments that will not hesitate to requisition the pharmaceutical corporations, large companies and the enormous assets of the banks in order to fund measures for protecting the urban workers, rural workers and the youth.”
25/ Eight months have gone by; we have nothing to take away from this statement. Today, we must send out a cry of alarm. For eight months, all governments, whether “left-wing” or “right-wing,” have shown their powerlessness to fight the epidemic. In eight months they would have had time to hire doctors and nurses to open more intensive care beds. Not only did they not do this, but in some countries they even went on closing beds, services and even entire hospitals.
They had eight months to build schools, create classrooms, to hire more teachers so as to reduce class sizes. They did nothing of that sort. While the governments and their virologists are every day lecturing people about each individual’s “personal responsibility,” buses, trains and subways are packed with people who are totally unable to respect social distancing.
Eight months have gone by since the epidemic first appeared, and no new bus or underground networks have been planned, no drivers or technicians have been recruited to use existing resources and increase service frequency
One thing is very clear; the principle of capitalism, based on profit, is such that it is not able in any way to protect people, and especially workers and their families, from a pandemic. The measures taken by all governments are marked by repression against the majority. They are only a pretext for measures against the workers and the rights that protect them such as the 8-hour day, the right to strike, guarantees against layoffs. They serve as a pretext to undermine young people’s gains, the right to education and work, free expression, the right to demonstrate and organize.
The most basic rights, healthcare, can only be defended if bourgeois governments are driven out. Only governments of workers, of the majority of the population, can defend the interests of the majority. To achieve this, the unity of workers and their organizations is needed. Fourth International activists are committed to acting everywhere to promote the unity of workers and their organizations around the most urgent demands.
The streets of every city in the United States have reverberated with this slogan: “Black Lives Matter”: the lives of Black people matter. Yes, the lives of Black people, the lives of workers, the lives of young people and oppressed peoples the world over matter. But in order for them to matter, they must be able to free themselves from capitalist exploitation.
Workers, young people, working women, to liberate humanity from the chains of exploitation and oppression, to crush the hideous barbarism that capitalism in its death agony offers us as our only future, join the fight for liberating socialism, Join the fight for the Fourth International!
Delegation of OCRFI Afghan activists
Organizing Committee of Socialist Internationalists of Algeria (COSI)
Azanian Section of the Fourth International (AS-FI)
Bangladesh Section of the Fourth International
International Socialist Organization (OSI), Belgian section of the OCRFI
Liaison Committee of Trotskyists of Benin (CLTB)
Internationalist Communist Organization (OCRFI)
Burundian Section of the Fourth International
Liaison Committee of Trotskyists of Canada (CLTC)
Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast
Prof. Ouattara Mamadou, Vice President of the Steering Committee of the Reunification of Fractions of the Higher Education Union of Côte d’Ivoire (CNEC)
Guest from China
Internationalist Communist Tendency, French Section of the Fourth International
Julius Monath, Günter Rex and Max Schumacher, members of the German section of the OCRFI
British supporters of the OCRFI
Andreas Guhl, editor of Ergatika Nea
Berthony Dupont, Haiti Liberté
Supporters of the Fourth International
Dario Granaglia, Monica Grilli and Lorenzo Varaldo for the Internationalist Socialist Organization (OSI-OCRFI)
Korean delegation to the 3rd OCRFI International Conference, Sikhwa Jung, Korean activist
Group of Moroccan supporters of the OCRFI
Internationalist Communist League (LCI-OCRFI)
Pakistani Section of the Fourth International
Guest from Palestine
Internationalist Socialist Group (SIG)
A Internacional Group
Romanian Trotskyist Group and sympathizers
Group of OCRFI supporters in Russia
Senegalese Group for Revolutionary Studies (GSER)
Jacim Milunovic, worker activist
Wolfgang Eichenberger, on behalf of the Swiss delegation
Lawson Drackey Messan, activist of the Fourth International (OCRFI)
L., Tunisian activist
Chimurenga Vanguard (CORQI)