Despite nuclear arms-reduction measures, the arms race continues. The weapons accumulated end up in use, with all the barbarous consequences that ensue. There have been more than 80 so-called local wars since 1945 causing more than 20 million deaths. Imperialism’s brutal aggression against Iraq revealed the full murderous consequences of this arms race.The existence of enormous military stockpiles, the development of biological and chemical weapons and the proliferation of nuclear power stations likely to be transformed into so many nuclear explosions, could physically wipe out the human race. The multiplication of fatal “technical” accidents is evidence of the dangers inherent in the capitalist profit logic, as it is of bureaucratic irresponsibility. The greenhouse effect, the destruction of the ozone layer, the devastation of tropical rain forests, the poisoning of oceans, rivers and reservoirs and air pollution - all these threats combine to endanger humanity’s physical survival.
Famine increasingly threatens entire peoples - not because agricultural productivity is inadequate, but because it is too high to guarantee sufficient profits for agro-business and the big farmers in the richest countries. In these countries, the state hands out subsidies to systematically reduce farmland “in order to sustain prices”, at the risk of eliminating the whole of humanity’s grain reserves after several successive bad harvests.
The long international economic depression since the beginning of the 1970s has been disastrous for the living conditions of the peoples in nearly all the Third World. Absolute pauperization has often gone beyond that experienced in the 1930s, and is less and less cushioned by subsistence agriculture. The purchasing power of wage-earners has been reduced by around 50%. In the poorest countries, the calorie intake of half the population is often falling towards levels that existed in Nazi concentration camps.
In the imperialist countries, the effects of the crisis have been checked until now by the social protection won by decades of workers’ struggles, and the social strength of the working class. Nonetheless, unemployment has shot up: there are now 40 million unemployed in the richest countries, compared with 10 million at the beginning of the 1970s. Millions of “new poor” represent 10% to 25% of the population, depending on the country. Growing instability, marginalization and insecurity in society are expressed on the political terrain by the trend towards a strong state and the restriction of democratic freedoms (particularly trade-union rights), as well as by the growth of racism, xenophobia and the resurgence of a neo-fascist extreme-right. Torture and state terrorism are systematically used in more than 60 countries in the world, among them some imperialist countries.
The convulsions towards which international capitalism is heading will combine with the specific crises in the USSR, the People’s Republic of China and Eastern Europe. The growing awareness of the damage done by bureaucratic mismanagement and the acknowledged impasse of authoritarian and irrational economic “planning” have reinforced the idea that there is no viable “alternative social model” to capitalism. Not only ideological and political currents, but social forces - the new middle bourgeoisie and currents within the nomenklatura and the intelligentsia - are engaged in a struggle for privatisation and the restoration of capitalism.
But the reawakening of mass activity, above all by the working class, shows that nothing is decided yet, except in East Germany where capitalism has been restored by the absorption of this country into imperialist West Germany. Anti-establishment forces are emerging from the crisis in a double-pronged fight: against the remaining power of the bureaucracy and against privatization of the economy.
The division of the world that came out of World War II is now past history. It is no longer possible to present the dividing line in the heart of Europe as a natural frontier between two permanently estranged worlds. Simultaneously, the lead weight of Stalinism that weighed so heavily on the workers’ movement and on the mass movement the world over is lifting. This double thaw will gradually liberate enormous energies once suppressed by the subordination of the exploited and oppressed masses’ interests to those of states, “camps”, blocks, diplomatic manoeuvres and specific interests. In the short-term, the disarray within the workers movement caused by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, which did not lead to the victory of the anti-bureaucratic political revolution, gives backing to the capitalist ideological and political offensive on an international scale. But this will be gradually counter-balanced by the effects of the economic crisis, the increase in tensions between imperialism and the “Third World”, and the upturn of the mass movement in several countries, as has been strikingly confirmed by the Gulf war.
In the longer term, the internationalization of production and the division of labour, cultural exchanges and the rebellion of oppressed nationalities are breaking up the framework of existing states. The world political system is being shaken up at the same time as the American imperialist and Soviet bureaucratic leaderships have increasing difficulty in dominating the whole world as they would like, in spite of their agreements.
The exploited and oppressed will not let themselves be passively dragged towards the catastrophes that threaten their future and even their survival. In the last few years, millions of women and men have participated in mobilizations against war and nuclear weapons, for the defence of the environment, for the right to abortion, for the self-determination of oppressed nations, against racism, against austerity and unemployment, against imperialism, famine and the scourge of the Third World debt, against the privileges and dictatorships of the bureaucracies.
We must struggle for a way out of the crisis that safeguards the possibilities of social emancipation and completely fulfils the liberating ideal of human rights. This includes not only civic and political rights, but also social rights - the right to work, to a decent standard of living, to healthcare, education and housing. Neither the capitalist jungle nor bureaucratic dictatorships can meet this challenge. Only through their revolutionary overthrow can the unfolding possibilities of a socialist and internationalist solution to the crisis of civilization - based on the potential for struggle and innovation of the proletariat and the oppressed - be successful. The idea that patient sacrifices and sensible reforms are enough to ward off these dangers is an illusion. Reformist preachings have never prevented crises, avoided wars or contained social explosions. Resignation has always been infinitely more costly than struggle.
II. There is no easy capitalist solution to the crisis
The illusions of those intoxicated by the post-war boom, who put all their faith in a social and peaceful capitalism guaranteeing full employment and continuous rises in real wages, have been destroyed. Those who believe in a gradual way out of the depression through more patience and more sacrifices by the exploited do not understand the intimate link between the catastrophes threatening us and the intrinsic logic of the generalized market economy. This is the very essence of capitalism: exacerbated competition with no regard for its effects on society overall; the never-ending pursuit of short-term profits and the accumulation of wealth, without taking into account the human costs of this mad race and the irreparable damage that it inflicts on nature; the extension of competitive and aggressive behaviour in relationships between individuals, social groups and states; generalized egoism and corruption, the law of the jungle and the “weakest to the wall!”.
The long depression that started at the beginning of the 1970s is the result of this pitiless logic. It does not exclude phases of economic upturn. But these upturns mean an ever-growing transfer of the cost of the depression onto the Third World and the most destitute in the imperialist countries. They do not succeed in reducing unemployment even in the rich countries. The long drawn-out nature of the depression is already an endless nightmare for the poor and those left on the scrap heap. A new, long-term expansion would depend on soaring capitalist profits, a major defeat of the working class, the total reintegration of Eastern Europe, the USSR and China in the world market and a qualitative advance in the economic efficiency of the bourgeois state. None of this has happened. None of it is going to happen in the foreseeable future.
It is the technological development subject to the whims of competition and profit or to bureaucratic irresponsibility that is likely to lead us into disasters, and not the “uncontrollable perversity” of technology or of science in and of themselves. The subordination of science to the narrow imperatives of short-term profit expectations provokes an apparently irresistible craze for technology and the growth of intrinsically dangerous technologies. A combination of a partial, fragmented and mutilated rationality and increasingly explosive global irrationality is winning out alongside capitalism in every domain. Humanity does not need less science or less technology. It needs more science that is in harmony with an awareness of long-term social and historic interests, technology that is subject to the collective understanding and control of the associated producers. It needs collective control over the economy and the future of society through conscious decision-making, based on the knowledge of men and women and not on a resigned submission to “the natural course of events”, to supposedly eternal economic laws or a return to obscurantist superstitions and myths.
The struggle to win human rights on all continents is at the heart of this battle. In this struggle, there is no Chinese Wall between the conquest of civil and political rights and of social and economic ones. In a society where the ruling principle is respect for capitalist property and the priority of profit, it is impossible to guarantee that everybody fully and totally enjoys basic democratic rights. The workers’ movement must become the most resolute supporter of democratic freedoms, turning the campaign for human rights against the bourgeoisie. But it will only win confidence and authority if these same principles are applied in its own ranks and if it refuses to accept any violation of these rights in the countries in which it is in power.
Powerful interests are opposed to universal general disarmament, to preventing air, sea and land pollution, to ending the hunger, misery and desperate anxiety of daily life or to overcoming its increasingly murderous antidotes, such as alcohol and drugs. There is no lack of knowledge and resources for putting an end to these plagues. But the interests opposing this have state power at their disposal. The bourgeoisie tries to keep one step ahead by regulating the right to strike, limiting trade-union freedoms for whole categories of workers, controlling the freedom of the press and reinforcing the prerogatives of its political executive, repressive forces and secret services in the name of “internal and external security”. The power of the world’s masters must be overthrown. The economic strength on which it rests must be taken from them in order to safeguard the future of the human race.
It is illusory to imagine capitalism without crises of overproduction - veritable insults to humanity given the hundreds of millions of human-beings whose most basic needs are not satisfied. It is illusory to imagine capitalism without unemployment, without poverty, without discrimination against women, young people, the aged, immigrants and national minorities, without racism or xenophobia. Since the beginning of the industrial era, periodic crises of overproduction (22 since 1825!) have been inherent to the capitalist mode of production. They cannot be avoided tomorrow any more than they were yesterday. In the face of these lessons, blindness is impermissible. Refusing to clearly see the current dangers is just as irresponsible or as cowardly as it was before Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
III. Catastrophe is already looming in the Third World
The dangers hanging over humanity are already clearly apparent in the dependent countries. Here, barbarism is already at work. Capitalism cannot be judged simply by looking at the living conditions of a small minority of the world’s population - the middle classes and the highest paid workers in the richest countries - while closing one’s eyes to the living conditions of the large majority of people in the capitalist countries.
Apart from a few exceptions, the semi-colonial and dependent countries have suffered a disastrous decline in living standards over the last ten years. A regularly employed wage-worker often earns each year the equivalent of an average monthly or even weekly wage in the imperialist centres.
In the Third World countries, 15 million children die every year from hunger, malnutrition and the lack of healthcare and medicines. Every six years, this silent massacre is causing as many victims as World War II, including the holocaust and Hiroshima. The equivalent of several world wars against children since 1945: this is the balance-sheet of capitalism’s survival. The resources to feed, care for, house and educate these children certainly exist on a world scale. On condition that they are not squandered on arms spending. On condition that they are redistributed to help those most in need. On condition that their allocation is no longer entrusted to the grasping interests of chemical, pharmaceutical and agro-industry multi-nationals, and to arms manufacturers’ thirst for enrichment.
Pollution is now being deliberately exported from the imperialist heartlands to Third World countries, which are becoming a cheap dustbin for dangerous, non-recyclable industrial waste. This means growing desertification, faster destruction of tropical rain forests and the transfer to these countries of industries that are particularly harmful to the environment, which rapidly creates even worse ecological disasters than those already affecting the richer countries.
The search for hard currency to finance debt interest and the systematic development of export agriculture to the detriment of producing basic foodstuffs worsen trends of undernourishment and famine. The poor countries are now exporting capital to the rich ones, not to mention the effects of corruption and embezzling of funds and public grants by the ruling classes in the Third World for private gain. A concentrated expression of a relapse into dependence and under-development, the debt’s iron vice thus strangles above all the poorest of the poor. The struggle against paying the debt begins with day-to-day opposition to the policies of wage austerity, which put a terrible pressure on purchasing power; to the massive cuts in public education and health budgets and the dismantling of the public sector; to ecological damage linked to uncontrolled capital penetration and to the absolute priority given to exports to the detriment of food cultivation.
Workers, peasants and the underprivileged of the towns and shantytowns are resisting this unbearable deterioration in their living conditions. In Latin America, Asia and Africa there have been successive waves of strikes, land occupations, peasant revolts and urban explosions of pauperized and marginalized masses. There have also been electoral victories, general strikes, attempts at political and trade-union organization independent of the state and the bourgeoisie, as well as some pockets of armed resistance.
IV. The crisis of the non-capitalist bureaucratized societies
This crisis has been maturing for years in the USSR, China and Eastern Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy did not provoke it, but simply brought it out into the open. In the USSR and Eastern Europe, this crisis is seen particularly in a slowdown of economic growth, in increasingly pronounced technological backwardness, in social stagnation and regression, in the appearance of new, widespread poverty, in deep moral and ecological crises, in the brutal loss of credibility of political institutions, in the renaissance of independent political opinion, and in the first independent political demonstrations by sections of the masses.
Reformist tendencies then appeared inside the ruling bureaucracy. They are striving to save the bureaucracy’s power and privileges by means of sometimes radical reforms in the economic as well as in the political, social and cultural arenas. The regime’s crisis is neither a crisis of capitalist overproduction, nor a crisis of socialism. Real socialism is inseparable from the greatest possible democracy for the largest numbers of people, the free confrontation of ideas, the independence of mass organizations from the parties and the state, the exercise of power by the masses themselves and self-management. It has never existed in these countries. Associating the word socialism with bureaucratic monstrosities - such as the Gulag, growing inequalities, generalized corruption, and bureaucratic control of young people, science and literary and artistic creation - was not the least of Stalin’s crimes.
But still less do these countries represent any variety of capitalism. The crushing weight of a privileged and parasitical bureaucratic layer usurping workers’ power in transitional societies produces a specific form of crisis. There is an increasingly explosive contradiction between the potential for social progress and the economic chaos, inequality, oppression and corruption resulting from bureaucratic dictatorship.
To save its political power, the source and ultimate basis of its privileges, the bureaucracy can undertake reforms. But, in spite of their initial success, the attempted reforms of Tito, Khrushchev, Mao and Deng have all ended in a dead end. Gorbachev’s efforts are doomed to the same fate. They have already made possible a deep social differentiation, including within the bureaucracy, with the emergence of political and social forces inclined towards capitalism on the one hand, and a reawakening of mass activity at the base of the workers’ movement, unprecedented in the USSR since the Stalinist counter-revolution, on the other.
Confronted by a dramatic slow down in economic growth and alarming indicators of social regression, and fearing an increase in irreversible technological backwardness in relation to the richest imperialist countries, the bureaucratic leaders are in an equally weak position in relation to both imperialism and to the masses in their own countries. This is the root of the contradictions in their policies.
Thus, disarmament initiatives are positive, even if they are determined by an attempt to reduce the burden of military spending on the Soviet economy rather than an internationalist policy. We support de-Stalinization. We support the rejection of the doctrine of “limited sovereignty” - the pretext for Soviet military interventions into East Germany, Hungary or Czechoslovakia. We welcome the de facto recognition of basic political freedoms - even if they are limited and partial - which the workers can and must seize in order to widen the democratic opening and build their own unions and organizations independent of the bureaucracy.
But at the same time we denounce the negotiations and summits between the “big powers”, carried out on the backs of peoples in struggle and often with the shared concern of snuffing out centres of revolutionary resistance in Central America, Southern Africa or in Palestine. We fight against the so-called free-market economic reforms, which, sooner or later, will lead to increased social inequality, a resurgence of mass unemployment and the social scourges resulting from it. We fight any - even limited - return to authoritarianism and repression, for example in relation to the nationalities in rebellion.
By crushing basic democratic freedoms and individual liberty, the bureaucratic regimes have given all bourgeois political institutions - identified with democracy - a new value in the eyes of the masses. But the attempts at economic liberalization and the openings to international capital mean austerity policies and inequality, provoking opposition from significant sectors of young people and workers. Faced with this resistance, the supporters of out and out economic liberalization - far from identifying it with a pursuit for democratic openness - will be tempted to resort to new restrictions of rights, indeed to authoritarian repression if the balance of forces permits.
The generalization and consolidation of democratic rights requires institutionalized people’s power, soviet power, which includes the right of workers to determine priorities in terms of allocating resources: self-management combined with democratic planning and the power of councils.
V. “Market socialism” is impossible
Faced with a massive economic crisis in the USSR and Eastern Europe, significant sections of the working population - East and West - are today resigned to the idea that massive recourse to market mechanisms is a lesser evil than bureaucratic chaos. From that to extolling a “market socialism” is only a step, one that has been taken by nearly all the Western reformist ideologues and by a number of “economic experts” and ideologues of the bureaucracy in the East.
But the idea of “market socialism” is a contradiction in terms. In a truly socialist society, freely-associated producers will themselves determine what they produce, how they produce it and how they distribute it. Democratic management of the economy, conscious and collective determination of what priorities to satisfy and the means to get there, is incompatible with the blind rule of the market and competition.
Before the communist society of abundance - that is the fulfilment of all rational needs - comes into being, any economic system will always be constrained by a relative shortage of productive resources. This means that certain needs are met at the expense of others. Those who control the social surplus product- ruling classes or castes like the Soviet bureaucracy - have the power to decide, in the final analysis, the priorities in the use of relatively scarce resources.
In capitalist society, these decisions are decided by the big companies and the very rich, that is by the imperative needs of profit and accumulation of capital. The “laws of the market” are refracted by these constraints and necessities. Luxury second homes are built, while there are millions of homeless people even in the so-called rich countries. Massive investment is made in producing less and less useful - sometimes dangerous - gadgets while even the most elementary needs of hundreds of millions of human beings remain unsatisfied.
In the bureaucratically-dominated Soviet economy and similar formations, these priorities in the use of resources were imposed in a despotic and arbitrary manner, which led to enormous and growing waste and lack of proportion.
In a socialist economy managed by the producers/consumers/citizens, these priorities will be democratically decided by the toiling masses. The priority needs thus determined will be the basis of the plan. Socialist planning is indispensable for ensuring that these priorities are respected. Market mechanisms subordinated to the plan will give consumers the greatest possible control in order to ensure a free choice of high quality consumer goods. But this subordination to the plan should prevent trends in economic development flowing from laws which impose themselves “spontaneously” on the workers but ensure that they are consciously decided, particularly in questions of employment, and the duration and intensity of work, in growing equality, in priorities in health, education, protection of the environment and culture.
It is this relationship between democratic, planned self-management and the satisfaction of consumer needs which makes a genuinely socialist economy superior to the capitalist economy, including in its “welfare state” form.
The associated producers will set free an enormous creative and inventive potential of careful and thrifty managers, when they see in practice their ability to ensure that high quality goods and services are freely available. From this point the “enterprise spirit”, in the rational sense of the term, which under the capitalist regime and the rule of the market is the preserve of a small minority of private property owners (usually less than 10% of the active population in the most industrialised countries), will be extended to the vast majority of the producers. Basing itself on the enormous potential of computer technology, further encouraged by the possibility of a radical reduction in the working day and week, taking on board all ecological considerations, the self-managed, democratically-planned socialist economy will show itself to be more efficient, more rational and more humane than the most advanced capitalist economy however much its worst features are ameliorated by the “Welfare State”.
The Yugoslav experience has tragically confirmed that workers’ self-management - even limited to one firm - and market economy are mutually exclusive in the long term. Workers could benefit from important prerogatives at a factory level, including the power to sack their manager. But as soon as the factory’s future depends on its market performance, which in turn depends on a myriad of factors independent of the workers’ decisions (among others, the initial technological level, the extent of the product’s monopoly, the differentiated access to credit, the no less differentiated access to hard currency allowing the import of machines, raw materials and spare parts), these workers can find themselves penalized by the market regardless of their efforts. Their workplace may even be driven to bankruptcy. What will then remain of self-management, except the workers’ “right” to sack themselves?
In the transition from capitalism to socialism, recourse to market mechanisms remains necessary, including in sectors where an insufficient objective socialization of work ill prepares collective ownership: handicraft industries, some distribution and service sectors (such as repairs), and so on. They can serve to eliminate shortage by breaking monopolies that are not encouraged to take consumer needs sufficiently into account in agriculture, the retail trade and certain services, on condition that private monopolies do not substitute for state monopoly.
But this is only conceivable in the framework of a conscious effort to gradually reduce market relations and the adoption of political democracy as the main regulatory factor. The use of money and the partial and provisional functioning of the market must therefore take place within a democratically planned economy - that is, within an overall political decision-making structure that ensures that partial market mechanisms do not exacerbate social inequalities, do not operate to the detriment of the least well-off in the population and do not cut into the system of social protection that assures the satisfaction of the basic needs of all citizens. It presumes a strengthening of democratic socialist mechanisms, of public control over all the structures of economic and social life.
Without real political control by the workers, even the partial strengthening of market criteria - far from going in the direction of openness and democratization - will reinforce bureaucratization and corruption in the state apparatus, the political expropriation of the proletariat by privileged layers.
VI. Only authentic, democratic and pluralist socialism can solve the world crisis
A radical solution of the world crisis involves challenging the generalized market economy, private ownership of the means of production, the sovereignty of nation states and the bureaucratic grip over systems of social protection. It implies the perspective of a democratic, pluralist, self-managing Democratic World Socialist Federation.
The potential for progress inherent in science and human intelligence can only blossom under a truly socialist and democratic regime, where science and technology are at the service of men and women, and submitted to open and critical public control. Culture and further education will be completely open to everyone for the first time. This will not only result in a boom in the consumption of culture, but also in cultural creation, the liberation of a gigantic reserve of still-unexplored energy. Scientific development could contribute to liberating women and men from the burden of fragmented, repetitive, mechanical, monotonous work which is physically and mentally destructive. But this demands that technology is used creatively, which is inconceivable without accountable, collective behaviour of freely-associated producers and without generalized self-management.
There is constance resistance by the exploited to the illdoing of captialism. But it is hampered by the idea that there is now no longer any viable “model of society” beyond capitalism. This idea is fed by two things. First, the prejudices that have been propagated for thousands of years by the ruling classes: “there have always been rich and poor”, “without the incentive of private profit, nobody would work”; and for two centuries by the bourgeoisie: “the market is a good thing because it is natural”.... As if the market was not a human institution, only recently generalized and forged out of the pillage and violence of primitive accumulation!
Already today significant minorities are challenging “the work ethic” and the unlimited accumulation of material goods as the supreme goal of social life. For millions of workers, for many young people and intellectuals, working less to live their lives differently is more important than working long hours in order to consume more. For millions of men and women conscious of ecological dangers, the quality of life, protection of the environment and respect for the nature of which we are part are more important than the unlimited accumulation of possessions.
The second factor, more difficult to overcome, is not bourgeois ideology but the painful experiences endured by the international working class. After the double failure of Stalinism and social-democracy, with its pretension of changing capitalism gradually and peacefully, the international working class will not re-appropriate the revolutionary socialist project through a simple battle of ideas, necessary as that is. It will only succeed through new formative experiences, new practices and new partial victories capable of throwing off the weight of past defeats and disillusions. A society of free and equal women and men, liberated from the constraints of wage slavery, oppression and exploitation, is more than ever necessary and possible. On condition that productive resources, human and material, are redistributed according to criteria of solidarity incompatible with the dictatorship of the market; and on condition that this redistribution goes alongside a new technological revolution that respects sources of wealth (natural and human).
A radically different motivation of economic behaviour could be based on the interests of all in a continuous reduction of mechanical, repetitive work, which is experienced by most producers as forced labour. The realization of a new citizenship, for the first time establishing society’s control over a state and administrative apparatus fated to wither away, supposes a radical reduction in working hours, in fact by half. A pilot measure for all socialist revolutions, this demand is not a demagogic pipe-dream. Even conservative sources estimate that at least 50% of the total productive potential is unused or used for destructive and harmful ends (arms production), or simply wasted. With the rational use of these resources for productive and useful ends for humanity it would be possible to move towards the abolition of poverty and under-development in the Third World, while at the same time qualitatively improving workers’ living standards in today’s advanced countries. By using all available human resources, this objective is perfectly compatible with a radical reduction in working hours on a world scale, thus giving everyone the necessary time to participate fully and actively in democratic self-management and self-administration.
Initially, planning - even bureaucratic - allowed the USSR to be transformed in the space of only two generations from an under-developed country into the second-strongest power in the world. What has failed in the USSR and Eastern Europe is not socialist planning. It is the hybrid combination of bureaucratically-centralized “planning”, the survival of important market mechanisms and the search for private consumer privileges by the bureaucratic managers of the state economy. This is the root of the chaos and the growing social injustice.
Pluralist and living socialist democracy, the free confrontation of different priorities, the independence of political and social organizations from the state apparatus are not luxuries reserved for the richest countries that the poorest countries must put off until better times. For all socialist revolutions they are a functional necessity for overcoming contradictions in the economy, reducing inequalities and conquering injustices by developing the means to overcome difficulties through collective awareness. Men’s and women’s civic and social rights, a state based on law, unrestricted political democracy, democracy of the associated producers, democratically-centralized planning and the necessary but limited recourse to market mechanisms are all complementary for building a socialist society. Just one missing link in this chain is enough to pervert the whole process.
VII. The struggle for socialism is based on the united mobilization of the proletariat and its allies
Men and women wage workers, forced to sell their labour power, represent the only social force capable of paralysing and overthrowing capitalist society and building a society based on the cooperation and solidarity of the vast majority of the population. This is why only the working class in the broad sense of the term can be the backbone of all the exploited and oppressed in the struggle for socialism.
During the past few decades social movements such as those around feminism, ecology, peace, anti-racism and gay and lesbian liberation, have developed on the fringe of - or even in contradiction with - the workers’ movement. They reply to the new or worsened contradictions caused by the effects of the crisis in capitalist as well as in bureaucratic societies. They express a deeper and broader awareness of the multiple facets of oppression, and have succeeded in a positive way in incorporating very large popular sectors into the struggle, in particular young people. The feminist movement is a response to the oldest oppression known by humanity. It defends the interests of more than half the human race. It is an essential dimension of all struggles for human liberation. The socialist society that we want must satisfy the demands and objectives advanced by the social movements: real equality between women and men, sexual freedom, respect for the environment and the establishment of harmonious relations with nature. The working class must fully take up these struggles.
The fact that this has not been the case is the responsibility of the traditional workers’ organizations, but is also due to the weakness and errors of the revolutionary vanguard. Actively participating in these movements, we fight for their convergence with workers’ struggles and for the workers’ movement to become conscious of the legitimacy and subversive potential of these movements, at the same time respecting their autonomy.
More numerous and qualified than ever before, the proletariat now comprises more than a billion human beings. The dominant tendency is for the expansion, and not the contraction, of waged work everywhere in the world, including in the most developed countries. Of course, this expansion is not the same in every country, region or industrial sector or branch. Growth in one country or sector is always accompanied by a relative decline in another. But the overall result of these movements is in the direction of an expansion and not of a decline.
In each sector of the world lesbians and gay men have organized autonomously in defence of their rights, against state and street violence, ideological repression and heterosexist attitudes and practices that permeate all of society. Often taking the form of struggles for democratic rights, the dynamic of lesbian and gay liberation struggles can strike further than simple legal equality for sexual minorities. It is a challenge to the patriarchal family and the imposed sexual division of labour that are pillars of women’s oppression and a mainstay of social control in both the advanced and dependent capitalist countries as well as in the bureaucratic societies.
The heterogeneity of the proletariat has existed since the origins of wage labour. It is accompanied by divisions which result from the segmentation of the labour market. Along with the intentions of the bourgeoisie and its states, the combined and uneven development of productive forces have always resulted in maintaining and reinforcing this division of the working class. It is expressed from one end of the planet to another in wage differentials, the differences between old and young, men and women, workers and unemployed, “nationals” and immigrants, skilled and unskilled, manual workers and intellectuals.
But the internationalization of the productive forces, the advent of multinational corporations and the third technological revolution are promoting the gradual convergence of struggles between workers in the Ruhr or Los Angeles, in Săo Paulo or Bombay. On the other hand, the crisis leads to deepening differences and inequalities. The explosion of youth unemployment in a number of countries produces a sub-proletarian layer that has never worked, that is marginalized and outside the traditions of proletarian solidarity.
The beginnings of a dual society, or something even more fragmented, with an unprotected part of the proletariat reduced to unstable conditions of existence similar to those of 19th century cities or the Third World today, corresponds to a deliberate plan by capital to weaken the labour movement once and for all. Opposing this with the demand for reabsorption of unemployment via a radical cut in working hours without loss of pay or work speed ups is a central task.
The proletariat - that is, all those forced to sell their labour power - includes the mass of agricultural workers, of whom there are several hundred million in the world. Their social weight has declined relative to the total active population, but their absolute numbers are rising in countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan and Mexico. A blurred frontier both separates and unites the proletariat in the cities and the semi-proletariat in the fields (independent peasants who do not have enough land to earn their living all year round, and are forced to take on temporary paid work), including poor peasants. The potential for mobilizing these social classes has already been demonstrated in the growing movement of land occupations, indeed in putting land to productive use. This will be an integral part of the socialist revolution in these countries.
The same goes for the vast mass of marginalized semi-proletarians in the cities of the Third World, who represent one of the most explosive forces at odds with the social order. They can serve as a base to be manoeuvred by populist, reactionary forces. But, although the workers’ organizations and the proletariat as a class have until now seldom acted as defenders of these disinherited, defending their material and social interests and stimulating and helping their own self-organization, the fight for “urban reform” can become one of the motor forces of the permanent revolution in the under-industrialized countries, alongside the fight for agrarian reform.
In a number of key capitalist countries - notably the USA, India, Mexico, Argentina, Egypt and Iran - the proletariat has not yet won its political class independence. Overwhelmingly, it remains politically structured by populist forces, if not traditional bourgeois ones. In these countries, the struggle to win this political independence remains the primary task.
In the imperialist heartlands, as in Third World countries and the bureaucratic states, the proletariat - alongside the poor peasantry - is the only force capable of laying the basis for a new society. However, while the bourgeoisie is better organized internationally than in the last century, a mass workers’ International no longer exists. It is necessary to overcome this crisis of political leadership via the development of new generations of militants, the assimilation of lessons from the past, the accumulation of new partial victories that can help them to regain confidence, the re-establishment of dialogue - interrupted for too long - between workers in the capitalist countries and those in the bureaucratized societies, and a thoroughgoing reorganization of the mass movement and its political vanguard.
VIII. The struggle against women’s oppression
Women make up 53% of the world’s population and, counting both domestic work and waged work, carry out the majority of working hours realized in the world. On the other hand, when it is remunerated, women’s work is very largely undervalued in comparison to men’s. In addition, women’s economic decision-making power bears no relation to the work they do. They are kept in a subordinate position and are not even able to control their own situation. The responsibility for the care and upbringing of the next generation falls on women’s shoulders. They do this without the necessary economic and practical means, and most of the time without men’s support. This situation puts women in a very vulnerable position economically and socially, subject to degradation, health hazards, violence and sexual abuse.
Although the situation of women varies from country to country, it is still true to say that women everywhere are victims of economic exploitation and political subjugation. They are the first to be hit by all sorts of disasters: droughts, poverty, war, economic austerity measures. Women are the most vulnerable section of the toiling masses. Thus, women and children make up 85% of all the refugees in the world. The fight against women’s oppression is a fundamental part of the social struggle. It is not simply a question of democratic demands or civil rights - however important these aspects. Ending women’s oppression is an essential part of any successful struggle for a better society. This includes the absolute right for women to control their own bodies, the right to abortion on demand, full equality at work and in training, sexual freedom, freedom from sexual abuse and violence, and ending their exclusive responsibility for domestic work.
We unstintingly support the struggle and the self-organization of women for ending their subordination. We unreservedly recognize the right of women to decide their own fate. This battle is an integral part of the struggle for socialism: No women’s liberation without socialism - that is, without the abolition of both capitalist and patriarchal private property. No socialism without women’s liberation: while half of humanity is oppressing the other half, neither will be free. Revolutionary socialists, men and women, must fight for the feminization of all the bodies which run society, including those of the workers’ movement and their own political organizations.
IX. The struggle against national oppression
The national question remains one of the most explosive in the world. In the Third World countries, beyond those remaining colonies (Puerto Rico, Antilles, Kanaky ...), “decolonization” has not led to full national sovereignty for the countries concerned. Under forms going from direct politico-military domination to financial, technological and cultural dependence, they remain subjected to imperialist hegemony. These countries’ dependence - with all its implications (policies of privatization/denationalization) - is tending to worsen under the yoke of the debt. Under the pretext of fighting against drug trafficking, imperialism is redeploying its direct military presence in Latin America, a phenomena that is likely to be extended to other regions of the world. The control of audio-visual communication by the multinationals and the imperialist states, with the production and diffusion by satellite of programmes, gives them growing means for cultural manipulation. The colonial carve-up of Third World states and the specific formation of ruling elites, as well as the nationalist elites set up by imperialism, leads to the existence of nations that have been carved up and oppressed national and ethnic minorities.
Even in the imperialist heartlands where the process of forming nation states has continued for more than a century, oppressed national minorities exist (Black Americans, the peoples of Quebec and Ireland, the oppressed peoples in the Spanish state...). In the case of Ireland or the Spanish state, this oppression has fuelled powerful mass national liberation movements. The attempts of the British or Spanish governments to resolve these problems through a combination of brutal repression and limited political reforms have come up against the refusal of the peoples concerned. The idea according to which these questions can be resolved in the framework of re-jigging the European Community is an illusion. On the contrary, it is possible that the economic, social and territorial imbalances provoked by the Single Act will create a resurgence of unresolved or badly solved national demands.
The current crisis of the non-capitalist bureaucratic regimes is also expressed by an explosion of demands and mass national movements. They show the incompatibility between national democratic rights and a bureaucratic and police dictatorship of which chauvinism has been an integral part. The continuing forms of national oppression in the countries in question are extremely varied: domination of peripheral nations by the bureaucracy of the majority nation; constraints exercised by a “big brother” bureaucracy over neighbouring states of the same nature; oppression of national or ethnic minorities by majority nations inside states or federated republics that are themselves dominated... The masses’ anti-bureaucratic aspirations have found a global political expression in national demands, in which linguistic, cultural, economic, ecological aspirations and the demand for national sovereignty are invested.
Concrete political solutions cannot be defined in a general way, but only case by case, starting from revolutionary democratic principles. Revolutionary Marxists are above all internationalists. They always defend the common interests of workers of all nationalities, without subordinating them to particular interests. They fight against all forms of racism, xenophobia, chauvinism, hatred and ethnic contempt and discrimination, whatever their objective roots or subjective motivation. But the starting point of all real internationalist policies must be the radical distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed and the nationalism of the oppressors, on the basis of an irreconcilable opposition to the latter and unconditional solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors, while unceasingly combating the deadly poison of chauvinism. This attitude must be translated into the unconditional defence of the right to self-determination of oppressed nations - that is, their right to independence or to organize themselves in a sovereign way in a federal or confederal framework with other nations, freely consented to and freely reversible. To this end the workers in the dominant nation must demonstrate their unconditional solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed nation, not only to strengthen the fight, but also in order to weaken the state of their own class oppressor.
Revolutionary Marxists struggle for a world without frontiers, for the abolition of all types of privileges, and for the integration of all nations in a world socialist democracy, where a common universal culture and all national and ethnic cultures will flourish together. This ambitious objective demands not only the abolition of all national or linguistic privileges, and all forms of tutelage exercised over the least nation or ethnic group, but also a righting of centuries-old wrongs of national or racial oppression by “positive action” in favour of oppressed nations. Only then can a strict equality be established between all nations, languages and ethnic groups. The struggle against national oppression is thus inscribed in the perspective of democratic socialism. It means the working class puts itself at the head of the struggle against national oppression, that it does not consider itself external to this cause but behaves as the vanguard of the oppressed nations while maintaining its internationalist solidarity with the struggles of all workers, including those of the oppressing nations.
X. A revolutionary internationalist answer to the crisis
During the last few decades, there has been an accelerating internationalization of productive forces. Multinationals, several hundred of which alone dominate the world market, are increasingly escaping the control of any government, including those of the main imperialist powers. They transfer their investments, production and distribution centres from country to country in relation to the sole criterion of maximizing their profit. The internationalization of productive forces, capital, services and the division of labour leads to a growing internationalization of the class struggle.
By creating the first workers’ internationals over a century ago, the workers’ movement was able to take the initiative. The conservatism and chauvinism of the bureaucratic apparatuses have led to a retreat and to collaboration with “national” bosses, and a turning away from an international strategy of counter-attacking the trusts.
In the imperialist countries, this regression can take the form of classical chauvinism: the Germans, or the Japanese, or the Brazilians, or the Americans - exploiters and exploited mixed up - are supposed to be the cause of unemployment! It can take the new form of lining up on the side of the Europe of the trusts and bosses, an affluent “Euro-chauvinism”, which is nothing but a variant of this reactionary nationalism. The only useful response to the global strategy of the multinationals is international solidarity by the workers of every country, against their national bosses as well as foreign ones. This can develop through coordinating trade-union activities across frontiers, fighting for the upgrading rather than downgrading of wages and working conditions in various countries. Far from damaging industrialization and job-creation in the Third World, such coordination could replace the “model of development” that is based on exporting low wages with one centred on eliminating poverty, enlarging the internal market and the massive transfer of up-to-date technology to these countries.
Not content with simply demanding the total and immediate cancellation of the Third World and East European debt, we agitate for the workers’ movement and the working class in the creditor countries to make this their objective and mobilize for it. It is an obligation of basic solidarity with our least favoured and most exploited class brothers and sisters. It is a fight against the division of the working class, its racist and xenophobic consequences inside the imperialist heartlands themselves (in particular against immigrant workers), and the fascist dynamic that could develop out of this.
There is not a single fight against the domination of capital (from the Russian, Finnish or Hungarian to the Spanish and Yugoslav revolutions), against the yoke of colonialism (from the Indo-Chinese revolution to the African wars of liberation) or against neo-colonial tyrannies (Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and so on) that has not come up against military intervention or threats by the imperialist powers. Imperialism has put these colonial or neo-colonial regimes of exploitation and dictatorship, poverty and humiliation, in the driving seat. This is what the masses rise up against, and not because of some plot by a “subversive international centre”.
Revolutions cannot be exported. On the other hand, counter-revolution is being exported under the cloak of pacts and imperialist or bureaucratic alliances. Confronted by this aggression, the value of massive international solidarity has proven its worth. It saved the Russian revolution in 1920. It contributed to the defeat of American imperialism in Vietnam. It put a damper on threats of military intervention against Cuba or Nicaragua, although without succeeding in breaking through the economic blockade inflicted on these countries.
In Indo-China and Nicaragua, the price exacted by the counter-revolutionary interventions during many years is extremely high. It has left their peoples destitute, along with ruined economies that are incapable of assuring a rapid improvement in living standards. Militant solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles, along with economic and military aid that can help bring about the quickest possible victory at the least cost, are a necessary response to the internationalization of the counter-revolution.
The social crisis increasingly takes on a global dimension. No serious solutions can be given on a national level to the crucial questions of disarmament, energy, the destruction of the ecosphere and biosphere, hunger and disease in the Third World. These plagues can, and must, be attacked in each country. But they can only be vanquished on the scale of the whole planet. Gorbachev has abandoned the reactionary myth of achieving the building of socialism in one country or a single camp, emphasizing the globalization of big problems. This diagnosis is more realistic than those of Stalin, Khrushchev, Mao or Deng, but it does not draw the same conclusions as Marx and Engels, according to which only a world socialist revolution transforming the main industrial countries can resolve the crisis of humanity.
On the contrary, the stress that Gorbachev puts on globalization stems from another reactionary myth, according to which it is possible to resolve the big problems through stepping up peaceful cooperation with imperialism. Insofar as this policy exercises pressure over the mass movements in the direction of a compromise with imperialism, it contributes to perpetuating two oppressive systems: without revolution, the democratization of the bureaucratic workers’ states, like the socialization of capitalism, is just a dead-end illusion.
XI. No socialism without revolution, no revolution without a revolutionary party
The establishment of real and democratic socialism can take no other path than that of breaking with capitalism and the bureaucratic dictatorships and overturning them via mass mobilization - in a word, revolution. The balance-sheet of the century that is drawing to a close is not simply the failure of Stalinism. It is just as much that of the failure of social democracy, with its increasing integration into the structures of the bourgeois state apparatus, its loyal and brutal management of imperialist interests and its holy alliance with its capitalist partners. It is likewise that of bourgeois nationalism in the colonial countries, which is incapable of bringing about national independence and social emancipation.The twentieth century has not been a century of gradual and peaceful progress. It has been a century of revolutions, wars and counter-revolutions - unhappily much more tumultuousthan even the most lucid revolutionaries had ever imagined.
The masses do not always act as revolutionaries but only occasionally, through necessity, when they can no longer tolerate the intolerable, when they are transformed and break the circle of submission during a revolutionary crisis. These crises are periodically inevitable. The task of a vanguard conscious of this reality is to aid the daily accumulation of mass experiences, to help to bring together and educate the most combative forces and to draw out those goals that would lead to victory in a revolutionary crisis rather than leading to counter-revolution, for which the exploited and oppressed have paid a high price over long years.
Both exploiters and governments identify the revolution with violence and terror. They cloud issues and responsibilities and confuse revolution and counter-revolution. As if their order was not one of daily violence, poverty, hunger and forced labour - much more devastating than any revolution. As if counter-revolutions and the totalitarian dictatorships (fascism, Nazism!) or semi-fascist dictatorships to which they often lead have not unleashed violence and caused incomparable losses. The millions of deaths in the Gulag are not the responsibility of the Russian revolution, but of the Stalinist counter-revolution. In eight years, imperialist aggression against the Nicaraguan revolution created as many victims as the Somoza dictatorship did before the revolution, without mentioning the American bombing of Vietnam. Who can estimate the cost of resignation and lost revolutions?
One hears that the era of revolutions is over, that it belonged to a heroic bygone century, that revolutions have become impossible in the face of the strength of imperialist powers armed to the teeth. And yet the Vietnamese liberation struggle put an end to American intervention using unprecedented methods. And yet the Cuban revolution triumphed over the barbaric imperialist colossus. And yet the Nicaraguan revolution overthrew Somoza in the backyard of the world’s policeman. The preachers of “lesser evilism” still say that it is better to put up with capitalism and its ravages than to risk totalitarian and irreversible bureaucratic dictatorships. Yesterday, they were still claiming that “under communism” the monster state had devoured and destroyed society. But now we are seeing this society reawakening and fighting back. It is overthrowing the bureaucrats and breaking their yoke.
A new chapter of history is opening:
In the countries of Eastern Europe, new pages are going to be written, not starting from scratch, but from the experiences already accumulated in 1953 during the East Berlin strikes, in 1956 during the Polish and Hungarian uprisings, in 1971-1976-1980 in Poland and now today in all these countries, in the USSR and China. The strategic elements of the political anti-bureaucratic revolution are being drawn out from all these struggles: the independence of mass organizations from the state, democratic guarantees against privileges and the political monopoly of the party, separation of the party and the state, the exercise of power by democratically elected bodies, the disbanding of repressive forces, self-organization and self-defence, generalized self-management....
In the contemporary imperialist states, revolutionary strategy will combine the heritage of the first half of the century (democratic demands, workers’ control over production, dual power, general strikes, division of repressive apparatuses, self-defence, insurrections) with that of the 1960s and 1970s, from the French May to the Portuguese revolution: generalized social self-organization, aspiration to self-management, autonomous women’s liberation movements....
In the dependent countries, crucial experiences, victories or defeats, have confirmed the alternative: either socialist revolution or a caricature of revolution. This neither implies an underestimation of national or democratic tasks, nor confusing the beginning of the revolutionary process with its goal. It does not eliminate the possibility of alliances, but it excludes any subordination to the so-called national bourgeoisie. More recently, in the light of the Nicaraguan revolution, Latin American politico-military organizations have traced out the path of a synthesis going beyond both the conception of the revolutionary “focus” and “prolonged guerrilla warfare”, defining new relationships between political and mass organizations and the armed struggle, between guerrilla struggle, prolonged warfare and mass insurrections, for those countries where the armed struggle remains an indispensable dimension of revolutionary combat due to the nature of the regimes in place.
The building of a new revolutionary leadership remains on the agenda. It means overcoming the legacy bequeathed by Stalinism, reformism and petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalism. It means political and cultural reconstruction, through new forces coming into struggle, through the reorganization of the social and union movements and through the regroupment of new vanguards. In a number of dependent countries, the reorganization of the workers’ movement has already gone well beyond a small vanguard and has massively affected the trade-union and political movement. In the imperialist heartlands themselves, the working class is from time to time reviving experiences of self-organization.
The danger of bureaucratization is not inherent in political parties. Its roots lie in the existence of the state as a professional organ of power, in the living and working conditions of the working class and in the effects of the division of labour within itself on the workers’ movement. Trade unions and associations are no less exposed to this danger than parties; the media demagogues, even “non-party affiliated”, are no less bureaucrats. The only way to control and progressively reduce the risks of bureaucratization - they cannot be totally eliminated - is through internal democracy in all organizations which endeavours to correct and combat the social and cultural inequalities in their ranks, mainly by education and a collective practice that increases awareness and participation of all their members.
XII. For new mass revolutionary parties and a new mass revolutionary International
The official revelations of Stalin’s crimes by the Soviet authorities highlights the meaning of the unremitting struggle led by the Left Opposition and the Fourth International since its foundation (in 1938) against the bureaucratic degeneration of the CPSU and the Communist International. Thanks to the steadfastness and courage of those who, in the USSR, took up the struggle against Stalinism, thanks to the determination of Leon Trotsky and those who, alongside him, contributed to founding the Fourth International, today we can look Soviet, Chinese or East European workers in the face without shame or guilt. Faced with the Stalinist counter-revolution, only our current saved the honour and the continuity of communism.
The simultaneous construction of revolutionary organizations in each country, as well-rooted as possible in their national realities, and of a revolutionary International is a question of programme. For revolutionaries also, existence determines consciousness. Necessary as they are, international solidarity, support for struggles and exchanges of experience are insufficient. It is by building an International together and developing its programme collectively that we can see the world simultaneously through the eyes of the Soviet worker or the Chinese struggling against the bureaucracy, through those of the super-exploited toilers, peasants or women in the Third World, through those of the British miner, the Japanese auto worker or the American teacher. It is only in this way that we can always be simultaneously on the side of the anti-bureaucratic movement in Eastern Europe and on the side of the oppressed crushed by imperialism, as well as on the side of workers in the imperialist cities struggling against the bosses and their state; that we can keep as our only guide and compass the general social and historic interests of the proletariat, and not the particular, diplomatic interests of states, “camps” or “blocs”.
Today, although national revolutionary organizations exist that are struggling sincerely and sometimes heroically for the abolition of exploitation in their countries, unfortunately there is no significant current outside of the Fourth International that puts the construction of a revolutionary International immediately on the agenda.
The reluctance of other revolutionary currents to build an international organization has deep roots. The failure of the Second International, and the chauvinist capitulation of its main parties and leaders when World War I was declared, have given credence to the idea that internationalism only consists of good intentions and breaks down in practice when mass parties face critical situations. The experience of the Communist International after Lenin’s death, dictating changes in orientation - and of leaders - to member parties via decisions emanating from the “centre”, has aroused strong and legitimate distrust towards the danger of international bureaucratic centralism. The equally disastrous experience of non-separation between the party and the state, and of the subordination of “fraternal parties” to the diplomatic and state interests of the “socialist homeland”, whether it be Soviet or Chinese, have reinforced concern for national independence among a number of revolutionary organizations. Finally, the material weight of the post-revolutionary bureaucratized non-capitalist states pressed down heavily on the international workers’ movement, including on revolutionary organizations, concerned with keeping material aid flowing and with avoiding political confrontation - even if this meant putting internationalist imperatives concerning those workers and peoples who are victims of the bureaucracy to one side, with the evident risk of slipping towards “national communism”.
However, in an increasingly interdependent world, internationalism is not a moral rule but a strategic necessity. Building an International is an essential task that cannot be put off until tomorrow. The Fourth International today is an irreplaceable instrument for advancing in this direction. We know that the construction of mass revolutionary parties in a series of countries and building a mass revolutionary International will not necessarily take place at the same tempo. Every time that the possibility arises in a country to build a democratic mass workers’ party independent from the state, the bourgeoisie or the bureaucracy and guaranteeing tendency rights, and every time an organization exists whose objectives and direction in the struggle for winning power we share, we have no reason to stay on the sidelines and cultivate the identity of a sect. On the contrary, we propose bringing revolutionaries together in the same democratic organization, the better to turn together towards left reformist or populist currents and propose unity in action at all levels against imperialism, the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy.
But as long as we cannot convince our revolutionary comrades or partners of the necessity and the timeliness of fighting to build a mass revolutionary International founded on a programme of defending the interests of the exploited and oppressed in every country and joint action along these lines, we claim the right to do this openly ourselves.
Agreement on the project of the International is not a precondition for building national parties together with other currents as soon as there is agreement on tasks and practice. But there is no Chinese wall separating national and international politics. In a world where the class struggle is more than ever international, the first is not the only topical question and the second simply a question for the future.
Faithful to the fundamental principles of the Communist Manifesto, no special interests separate us from the whole of the proletariat. We do not establish any particular principle on which to model the workers’ movement. We only distinguish ourselves from other workers’ parties on two points: in the various national workers’ struggles, we assert and put to the fore interests that are independent of nationality and common to the whole proletariat; and in the different phases of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, we always seek to represent the historic interests of the whole movement.
We call for a united struggle against all forms of exploitation and oppression everywhere in the world; for socialist and pluralist democracy; for an economy based the satisfaction of people’s needs by freely-associated producers taking over the large-scale means of production and communication; for total, universal disarmament; for women’s liberation and equality between the sexes; for the protection of the planet and the survival of the human race.