The international struggle against capitalism and for revolutionary socialism
Translation of the CWI leaflet for the WSF in Caracas
Thousands of youth and activists have come to Caracas to attend the World Social Forum to discuss world events and the struggle against capitalism. The task of this event is to discuss how to fight to change society and break with a system that brings nothing but poverty and war. We believe that it is important as well to discuss how to fight for socialism which is the only viable alternative to imperialism and capitalism.
Global capitalism and imperialism have increased poverty and exploitation to unprecedented levels. According to the UN, the horrifying truth is that 222 million people – 43% of the population of Latin America – are poor, with 96 million — nearly one in five — living on less than $ 1 a day. While capitalist politicians hypocritically promise to end war and hunger the main imperialist power, the United States of America, spent more than $ 455 billion on armaments in 2004 while 37 million of its own population are poor.
We live in an age of unprecedented polarisation between rich and poor. Even in the most industrialised capitalist nations workers are facing redundancies, lower pensions, and cuts in wages while the super billionaires, who really run society, have hoarded more money than ever before. The wealth of Bill Gates, the US owner of Microsoft, increases by $ 50 million a day while almost half of the people of the world have to survive on less than $ 2 a day.
The chaos, crisis and disorder of global capitalism and imperialism increases and is more evident as each day passes. As a result, all over the world, a mass of people are coming out in opposition to neo-liberalism; privatisation and capitalist policies in general. The masses in Latin America are in revolt against neo-liberalism, the effects of privatisation and the economic policies of capitalism. The magnificent uprisings by the working class and poor in Bolivia demanding nationalisation of gas and other resources; the strike of oil-workers and the local community in Sucumbíos and Orellana, two of the Amazonian provinces in Ecuador, in the last week of August; and the mobilisation against the summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, all show the mood developing amongst workers, peasants and young people throughout the continent.
In Europe, capitalist politicians and the establishment suffered a major setback by the vote of the French and the Dutch working class to reject the neo-liberal proposed new EU constitution. This was a vote by the working class of these countries against the capitalist politicians and neo-liberal policies which they defend. In Belgium two general strikes took place against the proposed pension reform of the government while in France youth rioted in the poor suburbs in response to repression, racism and poverty. The riots went on for three weeks and touched more than 300 cities before they where put down by heavy repression and police intervention. A state of emergency was declared for three months. Curfews were implemented in 30 districts. And all this in “democractic” France!
The capitalist classes of Europe face a continuing crisis of political leadership. The new grand coalition in Germany – headed by Angela Merkel of the CDU together with the ex-social democratic party SPD – is a coalition of losers. The SPD got its worst result in 40 years and the CDU received its worst result since 1949. Both of them have now formed a Grand coalition against the workers. The only winning party in the elections was a new left, radical party, the Linkspartei, which got 8.7% of the vote, winning 54 seats in parliament. In Germany capitalism faces its worst crisis since the Second World War. Official unemployment now stands at nearly 12% of the workforce.
Hurricane Katrina exposed the utter bankruptcy of US capitalism and the vile reality of racism, oppression and the gulf between poor and rich in the most powerful state on earth. The entire world could see that the world’s sole superpower was not capable of protecting its own population when faced with a predictable natural disaster.
George Bush has seen his popularity in free fall as a result of his own twin towers, Katrina and the catastrophe of the Iraq war. Bush’s ‘authority’ has completely melted away with the death of 2,100 US military personnel and upwards of 30,000 wounded. Sixty per cent of the US population now considers it was ‘wrong’ and a ‘mistake’ to invade Iraq.
Every single day bears more witness to the criminal intent of US imperialism in Iraq. The US will stop funding ‘Iraqi reconstruction’ at the end of the year, withdrawing $18bn from rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by the US invasion of the country. Bush, and his closest international ally, the British PM Tony Blair, went to war on a lie, claiming the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. They occupied the country on a lie, namely “the rebuilding of Iraqi infrastructure and democracy”. In the future they will seek to scale back their armed presence in the country on a lie, the so-called “independence of Iraq” from imperialism and an “Iraq for all the Iraqi people”. The truth, of course, is that US and British imperialism went to war to gain control over the world’s third largest oil producer and its massive untapped reserves.
Capitalism throughout the world is in turmoil. There is growing conflict between the various imperialist powers over trade and spheres of political influence. This is becoming increasingly sharp in Asia where China, Japan and the USA are finding growing conflicts of interests between themselves.
It is time that capitalism and imperialism was overthrown and a new world built. The only alternative to capitalism and imperialism is to fight for international socialism. The CWI is a revolutionary socialist international organisation which fights to build revolutionary parties of workers’, youth and all those exploited by capitalism. Our parties and organisations campaign for a revolutionary socialist programme with the aim of building socialism internationally.
Latin America in revolt
The uprisings in Ecuador and Bolivia, and the subsequent election of Evo Morales in the latter country, together with the revolutionary process taking place here in Venezuela mark a turning point in the struggle of the masses throughout the continent. Overwhelmingly, the mass of the Latin American people have rejected neo-liberalism and are again looking for an alternative to capitalism. The idea of socialism is again beginning to emerge in Latin America, most prominently in Venezuela. In Brazil the pro-capitalist policies of Lula have resulted in the formation of a new party – P-SOL which support fighting for socialism as an alternative to capitalism. This party has important possibilities to develop in the coming months and years. It is an initiative which has lessons which need to be applied in other countries where the working class has no independent fighting parties and organisations to represent it.
No trust in capitalist representatives
The policies of neo-liberalism, with the devastating consequences of privatisation and other pro-capitalist policies, have been demanded by imperialism and willingly carried out by the capitalist class of Latin America. There is no progressive wing of the capitalist class that can defend the interests of the mass of working people. Radical nationalists like Kirchner in Argentina, while pushed by social movements to adopt radical populist policies ultimately support capitalism as shown by Kirchner’s measures against part of the piqueteros movement. The working class and all those exploited by capitalism can have no trust in any of these representatives of capitalism.
Brazil, Uruguay and other countries have seen the election of ‘left’ governments. These elections have reflected opposition to the neo-liberal policies of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The old established capitalist political parties have been thrown out of office. Lula in Brazil and more recently Tabaré Vázques in Uruguay were elected to office in protest at the neo-liberal pro-capitalist policies of the preceding governments. Unfortunately, once in power both Lula and Vázques and other such governments have embraced capitalism and proceeded to implement pro-capitalist neo-liberal measures. This is a warning to the working class in other Latin American countries. Leftist leaders who refuse to break with capitalism will become very rapidly the new lackeys of Imperialism and the establishment. The Lula government has become embroiled in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Brazil’s history proving that it has become like the other parties of capitalism.
In Bolivia, the tremendous movement of workers and peasants, with the indigenous Aymara peoples playing the leading role, has brought down the second President in two years and paved the way for the recent election of Evo Morales. The struggle of the indigenous peoples throughout Latin America is of crucial importance. Defence of the cultural, language and national democratic rights of all the indigenous peoples is a crucial part of the programme defended by the CWI.
Evo Morales, leader of the MAS (Movement for Socialism), is Bolivia’s first indigenous president and there are widespread hopes that he will take decisive action to defend the oppressed in poverty-stricken Bolivia. The nationalisation of the hydrocarbons is one of the key issues facing the Morales presidency.
Last December’s election took place as a result of the tremendous mobilisations of the workers and peasants. Bolivia was paralysed for more than two weeks in 2005 as the main cities were cut of by blockades of workers and peasants. Following the resignation of Mesa the political elite were so terrified of the mass protests that they had to convene the Congress in Sucre rather than in La Paz. This movement assumed a semi-insurrectional character. A situation arose which Marxists would analyse as containing important elements of ‘dual power’. That is to say, the established regime is paralysed and unable to act but a new alternative power – led by the working class and poor peasants – has not taken over the running of society. Such a situation cannot continue indefinitely. Either the working people take over the running of society or the capitalist rulers will reassert their rule.
The threat of civil war
The power of the movement was such that the far right were planning to declare a state of emergency and use the army to regain power. Such a step would have been a massive provocation and if attempted could have driven the country even closer to civil war. Fearing this development the ruling class stepped back from the brink, appointed the former President of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, and announced elections. This was clearly an attempt to regain control of the situation and disperse the mass movement. Morales at that time dropped the demand for the nationalisation of the hydrocarbons in an attempt to reach an agreement with the representatives of capitalism. During the election campaign he was compelled to support the demands of the working class for nationalisation.
Morales is now be under massive pressure of the masses to nationalise the energy resources of the country. The Bolivian trade union confederation, the COB, has given the government an ultimatum: implement the election programme, including the nationalisation of the energy resources, or mass street protest will begin again in three months time.
The first signs of the political course of the Morales government point to a zig-zagging between the demands of the street and the demands of capitalism.
At the same time as announcing a 50% pay cut for himself and his cabinet, Morales has offered support for the international bids to be made on El Mútun Iron mine, near the border with Brazil. During a visit to Santa Cruz in the first week after the election Morales tried to accommodate the local business leaders and was quoted by the London based Financial Times (28 December 2005) “I do not want to harm anybody, I do not want to expropriate or confiscate any assets, I want to learn from the businessmen”.
This is a warning to the masses. There can be no solution to the social crisis and mass poverty on the basis of appeasing capitalism. If Morales opts for an agreement with the elite and imperialism it is the majority of the population – the poor workers, peasant and indigenous people – who will pay with their blood for the enrichment of the local and international elite. The desperate poverty is driving the masses repeatedly to take to the road of struggle in protest against the misery they are compelled to suffer under capitalism. This seemingly relentless determination to struggle has emerged in Ecuador and other Latin American countries. It is not excluded however that on the basis of mass mobilisations the ruling elite in Bolivia could agree to a nationalisation of the gas resources to stop more revolutionary movements developing.
Revolutionary socialist programme needed
The dramatic events in Bolivia illustrate the need for a revolutionary socialist programme. Such a programme, together with a mass revolutionary socialist party, will enable the masses to overthrow the capitalist class and establish a workers’ and peasants’ government. There is also an urgent necessity for the Venezuelan revolution to adopt this path.
A failure to break with capitalism will mean a continuation of capitalist exploitation and misery. At a certain stage it will also allow the capitalist class in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries to prepare the ground and strike back. This can take the form of a military coup, like in Chile 1973, or a ‘creeping counter-revolution’. The absence of a socialist revolution in Bolivia could even result in the disintegration and possible break-up of the country. The rich oligarchy which is concentrated in the oil and gas-rich south-east of the country around Santa Cruz are already demanding greater autonomy and could attempt to take the rich deposits and separate from the rest of the country. Evo Morales agreed to the demand of the Santa Cruz elite for a referendum on deepening autonomy to be held in July 2006.
During the recent movement the COB declared that it was establishing a ‘Peoples Revolutionary Command’ to bring together all of the trade unions, popular movements, political and student organisations around a “strategy of power to the workers, peasants and impoverished middle class layers”. This bold declaration however needed to be translated into concrete actions and initiatives.
Local committees in each work place, university, shanty town and other relevant areas need to be elected. Mass assemblies need to take place to elect delegates to such bodies. These need then to link up on a district, city wide, regional and national basis. Delegates to these bodies must be elected and subject to immediate recall and give regular reports to mass meetings. At the centre of the struggle in Bolivia, in El Alto, the Federación de Juntas Vencinales de El Alto, took important steps towards establishing such a body on a citywide basis. Such steps need to be strengthened and repeated throughout the country. One of the tasks of such committees is to establish armed self defence force of workers and peasants.
It is urgent that the movement approach the rank and file soldiers to win their support and urge them to elect rank and file soldiers committees which then link up with the rest of the mass movement. Such steps could split the capitalist state machine and win big layers of it to the side of the revolutionary mass movement.
These bodies would need also to take the necessary steps to establish an armed militia of workers’ and peasants to defend the movement from the threat of reaction and paramilitary thugs of the rich elite that are currently used by the ruling class in Colombia.
Such a force could be established to organise and unify the mass movement and also provide the basis on which a new government of the working class, peasants and indigenous peoples could be established.
A workers’ and peasants government could then take the necessary steps to overthrow capitalism and landlordism. This would include nationalisation of gas and oil companies and all the major companies, banks and financial institutions owned by foreign imperialist companies and those owned by the Bolivian capitalist class. A programme of land reform to assist the poorer peasants would also be a crucial element of such a revolutionary socialist programme. Together with the introduction of a system of democratic workers control and management this would allow the introduction of an emergency programme to plan the reconstruction of the country in the interests of all those currently exploited by capitalism.
The Venezuelan revolution – overthrow capitalism
The mass movements which have rocked Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries are against the background of the developing revolution in Venezuela. These events have begun to attract the attention of the international working class and youth. The radical populist government of Hugo Chávez, which was swept to power by the Venezuelan masses, has implemented important social reforms, especially in health and education.
Over three million additional people have been put through primary and secondary education. 3,200 new schools have been opened. Over one million have been lifted out of illiteracy. Through the Plan Barrios Adentro one million people in Caracas alone now have access to health care – helped by the deployment of 20.000 Cuban doctors.
These and other reforms are no small achievements and are in marked distinction to the vicious attacks on living standards and counter-reforms which all other Latin American governments have introduced. The CWI welcomes and supports these reforms.
The radical populist government of Hugo Chávez has been a constant source of irritation to US imperialism which has supported efforts to overthrow his government on numerous occasions. These including the attempted coup in April 2002, the lock out in 2002/3 and the referendum. All these attempts at counter revolution, and others, have been defeated spontaneous mobilisation of the masses. The workers, urban poor and youth have shown tremendous determination and audacity.
The revolutionary mobilisation of the mass movement in Venezuela has put further pressure on the government. Hugo Chávez now has gone further and has argued that the ‘third way’ he attempted was a ‘farce’ and that the alternative to capitalism is socialism. The question of the need for socialism as an alternative to capitalism is now emerging as a crucial aspect of the debate regarding the development of the revolution.
The demand for nationalisation of the oil and gas resources in Bolivia and the beginnings of the emergence of the idea of socialism in the Venezuelan revolution represents an extremely significant development in the political consciousness of the activists amongst the working class and youth.
However, as in Bolivia, the decisive question is how the revolution can be taken forward. To defend the idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism is welcomed but it is not enough. The crucial question facing the mass movement is – what programme will overthrow capitalism and allow the working class to come to power and introduce socialist policies? Unfortunately, Hugo Chavez has not proposed a revolutionary socialist programme that will overthrow capitalism.
The working class, with the urban poor, poor peasants and all those exploited by capitalism need to be organised with their own independent organisations, party and revolutionary socialist programme. A socialist revolution cannot be carried through from above. It requires the conscious organisation of the working class with its own programme to break with capitalism.
There are undoubtedly significant sections of the government apparatus and bureaucratic layers amongst the mass movement in Venezuela who want to hold back the revolution. They want to try and make their peace with capitalism and imperialism.
Workers control and management
To defeat these elements and take the revolution forward the working class, urban poor, youth and peasantry need to take their own initiatives. Workers committees need to be elected in all of the work places. Such committees need to be elected and all members subject to the right of recall. These committees need to establish a system of workers control for the day to day running of each factory, office or work place. These committees need to link up on a citywide, regional and national basis.
While important elements of this already exist in some work places, including in InVenepal the attempts at sabotage by the managers and employers can only be checked by workers committees taking over the day to day organisation of work in the factories. Workers, through their general assemblies and councils in the workplace, should have full access to the books and all other ‘so-called’ secrets of the factory, of entire industries and of the national economy as a whole. Thus the workers can begin to discover the actual share of the national economy appropriated by individual capitalists, trusts and by the exploiters as a whole. The working out of the most elementary plan of national production from the point of view of the exploited is impossible without workers’ control, that is, without revealing all the open and hidden methods of the capitalist economy. In that sense workers’ control, even under the general conditions of capitalism, can be a school for workers’ management and the democratically planned economy. It is the basis on which workers can take over the management of the nationalised industry. Only if this is done can the masses ensure that the vast natural resources of the county will be used to develop society in their benefit rather than ending up in the bank accounts of the bureacrats and the national and international elite.
The nationalisation of InVenepal was an important step forward but more is needed to overthrow capitalism. The threat of reaction will remain if capitalism is not overthrown and a workers’ and poor peasants’ government established which then nationalises the major national companies and multi-nationals which still control the economy.
Threat of reaction
The defeat of reaction in Venezuela has been due to initiatives and the audacity of the masses. Yet, the threat of reaction still remains. The defeat of previous attempts at reaction has undoubtedly disorientated and demoralised the right-wing. A vast increase in oil revenue due to the surge in the price of petrol has meant that the government now has five times more oil revenue than when it first came to power and has also helped stabilise the situation and helped Hugo Chávez temporarily. To these factors, must also be added the fact that US imperialism is facing ‘over stretch’ of its resources because of its involvement in the Iraqi war.
However, the threat still remains that reaction will make a come back. This could be done through a military coup like in Chile in 1973. It is more likely that it will develop over a more protracted period time and take a ‘democratic’ form. This happened in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas, despite having nationalised large sections of the economy, failed to break with capitalism. Capitalist and imperialist economic sabotage and instability and a US backed ‘civil war’ eventually ground down and exhausted the population. This took place over a period of ten years but eventually allowed reaction to triumph ‘democratically’ in elections.
This is a warning to the threat that is still posed to the revolution in Venezuela if capitalism is not overthrown. Although the Chavez coalition has proved itself very popular and has won every electoral contest it was challenged with the rising level of abstention in these elections gives cause for concern. In the last elections for the National Assembly Chavez’s MVR party won 68% of the vote giving it 114 out of 167 seats. This was an increase of 28 and means it has the two-thirds majority needed to make changes to the constitution. However, despite president Chávez’s call for a massive turnout, the abstention level of 75% was the highest in the country’s history. The rising level of abstention is a serious warning. It partly reflects dissatisfaction about advancing bureaucratisation and corruption around the government and state apparatus, and continuing poverty.
There is an urgent need to take the revolution forward, break with capitalism and introduce a socialist plan to start ending the suffering of the working class and poor. Nationalised companies such as Venepal and PDVSA need a real system of workers control to organise production and running of the workplaces on a day to day basis. They also need a system of workers management to plan production nationally and integrate this into a democratic socialist plan of the whole economy.
In the nationalised industries a system of workers’ management can be introduced on the basis of a system of electing the boards of companies such as PDVSA to be comprised of one third elected from the workers in the industry, one third from the rest of the working class and poor and one third from a workers’ and peasants government so that each industry can be managed as part of an integrated democratic plan of the economy. On top of this, urgent measures need to be taken to combat corruption and the growth of bureaucracy. No elected representative should earn more than the average wage of those he or she represents. All elected representatives should be subject to recall and a system of rotation should be introduced to prevent individuals from gaining too much power.
The need for international solidarity and socialism
During a recent visit to Venezuela the newly elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, declared how “Bolivia has taken up the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal struggle of the Latin American people”. Chavez and Morales are speaking about the launch of an anti-imperialist alliance between Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela.
This will be welcomed by the masses throughout Latin America and seen as a step in the right direction. President Chavez answered journalists who accused Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia of forming an axis of evil “On the contrary, ours is the axis of th egood, that of the peaceful development of the people. The other, which threatens invasion and killings is the axis of Washington and its allies, whihc in reality is a real axis of evil”
It is crucial that an anti-imperialist alliance establishes direct links between the revolutionary workers’ movements throughout Latin America and to mobilise support for overthrowing capitalism and establishing workers’ and peasants governments. This anti-imperialist alliance should be formed on a program of establishing a socialist federation of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela on the basis of workers’ democracy and the establishment of a socialist planned economy under workers control and management. This must also be linked to the perspective of spreading the socialist revolution throughout the continent with the aim of establishing a Democratic Socialist Federation of Latin America and all the Americas.
The spread of the revolution and the appeal to the working class of the rest of Latin America and even the USA itself is the only way to withstand the threat of reaction and to survive attempts by US imperialism and the Latin American capitalist classes to isolate and overthrow the regimes in Bolivia, Cuba or Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government has also established strong links with Cuba. In Cuba, capitalism was overthrown during the revolution and a nationalised planned economy was introduced. The Cuban revolution and overthrow of capitalism resulted in big benefits for the Cuban people. Today this is still seen in the health and education system which is vastly superior to that which exists in any other Latin America country. The CWI supports all of the gains of the Cuban revolution and is opposed to any threat of counter revolution by US imperialism and capitalist restoration.
The gains of the Cuban revolution can best be defended by introducing a genuine system of workers democracy. Unfortunately, this has not existed but the nationalised planned economy and society has been ruled by a bureaucratic caste. A genuine regime of workers democracy would defend the nationalised planned economy but with a real system of workers democracy based on the election of all officials subject to the right of recall. No official should receive more than the average wage of a skilled worker. Free trade unions need to be allowed with the right to strike along. The Cuban masses need to be allowed freedom of political expression and the right to organise.
Such a system of workers democracy would offer the best defence of the revolution and also strengthen the appeal of the idea of a socialist revolution through out the rest of Latin America. A linking together of a Cuban, Bolivian and Venezuelan workers democracy in a democratic voluntary federation could begin the process of spreading the revolution throughout the continent and challenge capitalism and imperialism. This could be the first step towards building a socialist Latin America and a bridge towards winning the support of the working people of the whole of the Americas to socialism.
The CWI is fighting for these ideas internationally and we appeal to all workers, youth and those exploited by capitalism to join us and build an international socialist organisation that will fight capitalism and imperialism.