An era of capitalist turmoil – only socialism offers humankind a future

Mass protest in Myanmar, 9 February 2021, against the bloody military coup (Photo: VOA Burmese/Wikimedia Commons)

One hundred comrades from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) attended an extended meeting of its International Executive Committee from Friday 9 April to Sunday 11th April. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the meeting was held online. Comrades joined from many time zones from around the world –Africa, Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, Australia, and across Europe.

Arising from the three days of an excellent and wide-ranging discussion, the International Secretariat of the CWI publishes, below, a statement on the world situation and the main tasks facing the workers’ movement.

One year into the Covid-19 pandemic – with over three million dead, including one million in Latin America – global capitalism has been plunged into a series of inter-connected multiple crises: health, economic, political, social, geopolitical and environmental. Despite introducing massive stimulus packages and other measures – especially in the main imperialist powers – capitalism has failed to re-establish its equilibrium.

The 2020s is set to be a decade of explosive developments and upheavals in all countries. There is not a country where political and social turmoil is not present, to one degree or another. The lightning speed at which events are unfolding is a feature of the era we have entered. Capitalism is in its deepest crisis since the 1930s, with crucial changes in the world situation and economy – where many uncertainties are present. The capitalist classes will be confronted with crisis management, stumbling from one crisis to the next. Conversely, the working class and revolutionaries are faced with the task of rebuilding the workers’ movement-building combative trade unions, constructing mass parties and revolutionary parties to resolve the crisis of leadership which currently exists. This is now an urgent task given the dystopian character of modern capitalism in its long-drawn-out death agony.

The global health crisis is far from over, despite the significant roll-out of vaccines in some countries like the UK, US and Israel which is likely to bring some respite in those countries. However, the catastrophic situation which is unfolding, especially in Brazil and India and some other countries, together with the likely emergence of new variants, means that in one form or another the Covid-19 pandemic will not end globally in the short term. The horrific situation that exists in India and Brazil will have international consequences. The devastation taking place in both countries has been compared to a nuclear chain reaction being set off. The policies of Modi and Bolsonaro have led to a mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands in both countries.

The masses in these countries, and even the ruling class, are paying the price for the disastrous policies implemented by the likes of Bolsonaro, Modi or Trump before Biden’s victory. In these countries, the capitalist classes lost control of political leadership, a feature that has also been present in some other countries. It reflects the disintegration of some of the traditional political parties of capitalism. Internationally the capitalist classes, in general, are faced with ‘living with the virus’ and trying to contain it. This, together with the deepening environmental crisis, will impact the economy and social conditions of the masses. The “vaccine wars” which have taken place in the EU, India, to an extent the US, and elsewhere have starkly revealed the nature of capitalist society. Billions are being made by the large pharmaceutical companies involved at the expense of the poorest in society. The crisis in the roll-out of vaccines in Europe has dealt a big political blow to the EU.

The explosive events in the USA, where Trump desperately attempted to cling onto power through an element of an attempted coup, were a graphic illustration of the period we have entered. His friend Bolsonaro may attempt something similar should as seem likely at the time of writing, he faces the prospect of electoral defeat in 2022.

Biden – what he offers

The Biden victory has opened a new chapter in the crisis in US imperialism. His victory has already resulted in important changes in domestic and international policy. The change of course under Biden has led to an increase in support for him and will result in a certain honeymoon period. However, this will not last indefinitely, as his programme will not solve the underlying social and class polarisation which has opened in US society. The economy is still 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic peak. 50% of households earning less than US$35,000 per annum have fallen behind in housing payments. 25% of them report not having enough food.

The stimulus package of $1.9 trillion, followed by a proposed US$2 trillion investment programme on infrastructure projects, will have an effect and is very popular at this stage. Biden is now also proposing an additional package the ‘American Families Plan’ worth about US$1.8 trillion. According to the New York Times, a working single mother of a three-year-old earning the federal minimum wage of approximately US$16,000 per annum could gain US$4,775 from the bill. Workers employed on federal infrastructure projects are to be paid the minimum wage of US$15 per hour.

Yet as the economist Nouriel Roubini calculates: of the US$1400 direct payment sent to people, only one-third of it will find its way back into the economy due to accumulated debt and housing payment arrears. This will of course reduce debt but may not lead to an immediate substantial and lasting boom for the economy.

These packages, together with Biden’s statements supporting trade unions, include important features similar to Roosevelts ‘New Deal’ which was implemented from 1933-40. Biden, like Roosevelt, hopes that the trade union leaders will support him against both the Republicans and the left and militant workers. According to polls 65% of the US population currently view trade unions favourably. This is up from 45% following the 2009 crash. At the same time, trade union membership overall has fallen – reflecting the inability of the trade union bureaucracy to capitalize on this potentially favourable situation. This is a picture that exists in many other countries. The question of building combative opposition groups in the trade unions to oppose an entrenched bureaucracy is a crucial task in this era.

At this stage, Biden’s packages fall short of what Roosevelt introduced. Biden’s proposed packages of approximately US$5/6 trillion is to be introduced over eight years. It is far smaller than Roosevelt’s plan which at today’s prices would be in the order of US$50 trillion! Biden’s infrastructure programme is largely to expand existing projects, to be paid for by an increase in corporation tax from 21% to 28% has provoked protests from some sections of the ruling class. Yet even this is far below the historic levels of corporation tax post-1945 which were frequently over 50%! Trump reduced the rate to 21% from 35%, which is where it was under Obama. However, these measures will have an effect. They may be followed by further stimulus packages. The ruling class and Biden have been driven in this direction by the objective situation they confront.  Yet they will not resolve the underlying crisis which exists in US society and the social polarisation which has opened up. Even Roosevelt’s New Deal was not sufficient to prepare the way for the massive economic upswing which followed the second world war. This developed because of the massive armaments programme needed during the war and the situation internationally which followed it.

The ruling class in the USA will face a further political crisis as illusions in Biden eventually wane and new struggles emerge. The consolidation of Trump’s hold over the Republican Party shows that his forces have not disappeared despite the defeat suffered in the election. The proposals in many states by the Republicans to further curtail voting rights illustrates the right is preparing to make an attempted return to power. They are aiming to make gains in the mid-term elections in preparation for a comeback in 2024. They are also preparing to try and block some of Biden’s programmes. Depending on how events unfold, the crisis in the US can prepare the ground for Trump or a Trump mark 2 to re-emerge and make a comeback. The shooting of another black youth in Minneapolis, and the rioting which it triggered, illustrate the combustible social tensions which remain.

The global economy – what next?

The global economy contracted by 3.5% in 2020. In many countries, including major imperialist countries, the contraction was even greater. This was despite the massive stimulus packages that were introduced which globally amounted to US$15 trillion – equivalent to 17% of the 2020 global economy. Even this was insufficient to “reboot” the economy, but it prevented a total collapse. At least one-third of this however has gone directly to big businesses. Only a third of it has been given to families.

Faced with this unprecedented crisis the ruling classes further jettisoned the neo-liberalism that had dominated economic and political ideology, especially since the 1990s. In the main, they reverted to a form of Keynesianism as they did in 2007/8, although not on the scale as they have in this crisis. The abandonment of the neo-liberalism of the 1990s, and reversion to Keynesian methods, does not mean that austerity and privatisation will not be introduced in some countries as the ruling class zig-zags in policy depending on the situation it faces at each stage. A combination of both Keynesian programmes, alongside attacks on the conditions of the working and middle classes, can be introduced.

The scale of the collapse which took place in 2020 means that some recovery will inevitably take place, especially as economies come out of lockdown. The Chinese regime claim that the economy grew at 18.3% in the first quarter of this year compared to last year. A revival in the US economy is also taking place. However, estimates for China indicate that this rate of growth is unlikely to continue and the projected growth estimates for 2021 as a whole have been revised down to approximately 5%. The shaky recoveries taking place in some countries are not in the main sufficient to return to the situation which existed even prior to the 2009 crash. In general, they are more likely to be short-lived before a new crisis erupts. There is widespread debate and division among bourgeois economists and politicians about the policies which are needed. Many commentators are cautioning about what the future holds.

Moreover, with any recovery, the question of who gains from it is also a crucial question. The massive gulf between the rich oligarchs and the mass of the population has widened during the pandemic. Internationally 493 new billionaires have been created during 2020 – 205 of them in China! A massive increase in monopolisation of the global economy has taken place. 157 of the top 200 economic entities which exist (measured by revenue) are corporations, not countries. The likes of Amazon, Walmart, Shell etc. exist almost with some features of a state in their scale and in how they function. The case for them to be nationalised and run democratically by the working class as part of a socialist plan is today stronger than ever.

In any recovery, new jobs on worsened conditions are the feature that will dominate in most countries, together with stagnant real incomes. This will be in conjunction with continued unemployment for millions including in the US. The desperate position facing young people will be a crucial feature of the coming period. In Spain, the official level of youth unemployment is 40% and was a big factor in the massive riots and protests which followed the arrest of a radical and highly popular rapper. The desperate plight of young unemployed people and the crisis in education is an explosive cocktail that can give rise to eruptions of big youth movements and political radicalization in the coming months and years.

The accumulation of massive global debt during this crisis is a crucial element in the world economy. It is a ticking time bomb that can trigger another financial and or economic crisis. The global debt will surpass US$300 trillion in 2021. In 2020 six countries in the neo-colonial world defaulted or restructured debt repayments. A further 46 were allowed to delay repayments. These sticking plasters are set to peel off in the coming period triggering the likelihood of a fiscal crisis in a number of countries. Debt default is a possibility in some countries that will have important international political and economic consequences. A major crisis on debt repayment is unfolding in Argentina as it prepares to negotiate repayment of its US$50 billion debt. The demand for non-payment of the debt, and nationalisation of the banks under democratic workers’ control, is a crucial aspect of the programme of revolutionary socialists in the neo-colonial world.

The further intensification of trade and tariff wars that developed during 2020 continues as a reflection of the dramatically heightened conflicts developing between the capitalist powers. Should these intensify they can weaken or cut off any unstable, ephemeral recovery in many countries or the global economy.

Other instabilities in the world economy and financial markets can also aggravate further crises. One of the consequences of Biden’s packages has been to push up the US dollar. This has had an effect in the neo-colonial world, making imports more expensive and acting as a contributing factor to substantially rising inflation in Brazil, Argentina and other countries. The prospect of currency wars developing in the next period can also aggravate the problems in the global economy. The US dollar remains by far the world’s dominant currency. In 1975 84.6% of reserves were held in US dollars. By 2019 this had declined to 60.8% but rose again during 2020 due to the decline in world trade. This decline raises the possibilities of currency wars breaking out in which digital currencies can play a part. The growth of digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, can contribute to destabilising the global financial markets. Coinbase recently joined the Nasdaq stock exchange and was valued at US$99.9 billion – more than the Lloyds and Barclays banks added together. Although digital ‘currencies’ have grown, they are more symptomatic of the manic speculation (with extremely rapid fluctuations in prices and value) of mainly, though not exclusively, smaller investors at this stage. For this reason, capitalist economist Roubini dismisses Bitcoin as “shitcoin”. The establishment of a digital currency in China is somewhat different to these as it is run by the Chinese central bank. The British government is investigating the possibility of the Bank of England also establishing a digital currency.  The US Federal Reserve was holding discussions with Facebook about the possibility of it launching one. These developments point to the prospect of digital currencies becoming a more significant element in global finance and currency markets which can contribute to further instability.

Biden – “America is back” – to a world in turmoil

Biden declared that “America is back” internationally following the mainly isolationist policies pursued by Trump. However, it is “back” to an entirely changed world situation, marked by the strengthening of China as a world power, and the weakened position of US imperialism. While US imperialism under Biden is already ‘engaging’ in international policy, it is not in a position to establish itself any longer as the unchallenged world power.  Its ‘engagement’ can actually worsen the situation. They have engaged more with NATO, the WHO and the Paris agreement on the environment. While it is possible they will try to reach an agreement with Iran for example, at the same time Biden has maintained the sanctions and boycott of both Cuba and Venezuela.

The strengthening of China, which now accounts for 18% of global production, inevitably has resulted in a continued clash between Biden in government, and China. US imperialism, continuing its usual hypocrisy and double standards, is aiming to group together a “democratic alliance” against the “dictatorial” regimes of China and also Russia. The sharp denunciations of Putin by Biden reflect the bitter underlying tensions which exist. However, US imperialism is not in the position to return to its position as one unchallenged superpower.

The trend towards deglobalisation is leading to the attempts to form unstable regional trade blocks and spheres of influence. Massive pressure is being applied to the smaller countries in Asia and Latin America to join one camp or the other. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Asia involves 15 countries, including China, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, accounts for 30% of the world’s population. The steps to form new blocs are taking place as the former regional structures like ASEAN or ALBA barely function or are in varying degrees of crisis such as the EU.

The rapid expansion of Chinese influence in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and also into southern and eastern Europe, is creating tensions and problems in US imperialism’s attempts to draw these countries and areas into a loose anti-Chinese alliance. Massive pressure is being applied on the smaller countries to ‘take sides’ in the unfolding struggle for influence between the main rival powers. Sri Lanka has become a battleground between China and India for influence because of its strategic importance. Modi in India has begun to pose as the champion of the Tamil peoples in order to try and secure increased leverage in the country. India is being wooed by the west, reflected in it being invited along with South Korea and Australia to the next meeting of the G7. Biden aims to include the brutal Modi regime in his “Democratic Alliance”. Asia in particular is an explosive arena in the unfolding conflict between the competing powers and also in relation to the class struggle.

There has been a massive increase in military expenditure internationally in recent years. In 2020 alone it increased by 2.6% to reach approximately US$2 trillion. US imperialism now spends upwards of US$740 billion on its defence budget. China’s military expenditure by the end of 2021 is likely to approach US$208 billion.

The regional and local skirmishes and conflicts that are unfolding have many of the features of the situation which developed in clashes that broke out in the run-up to the 1914 world war. There are many flashpoints. The situation in the South China Sea, reflected in the recent skirmish involving China and the Philippines, along with the deployment of warships from the EU countries and the UK, are indicative of the growing tension in the area. A military exchange, by accident or design, cannot be excluded in this highly charged area of conflict and struggle for influence.

More recently the large military build-up on Russia’s western border with Ukraine is a further illustration of the growing tensions and conflicts which will develop in this decade.  Putin, who has pulled his forces back now, undertook the build-up of troops partly to divert attention at home and partly to assert that Russia is also a power internationally. It was also a response to the provocative threat of Ukrainian membership of NATO – something not likely to be agreed, at this stage. The protests that broke out in Russia following the arrest of Alexi Navalny and the decline in support for Putin raise the prospect of further movements and social explosions in opposition to Putin developing at a certain stage.

The clashes in inter-state relations which exist are also reflected in the political situation which has unfolded. It is marked by instability, fragmentation, splits and divisions in all countries. There is not one country where the capitalist class rules on a stable or tranquil base. The prospect of Israel facing a fifth general election within three years illustrates this. So does the crisis which has opened up in the Jordanian regime – previously regarded as the most solid and stable regime in the Arab world.

Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro

One of the features of the recent period has been the crises that have rocked some of the most brutal right-wing populist regimes and have revealed the limits of reaction. Trump was defeated after an attempt to cling onto to power which involved an element of an attempted coup. Now, with the loss of his friend in the US, the viciously right-wing authoritarian regime of Jair Bolsonaro in Brasil is in the grips of a massive crisis. The calamitous handling of the pandemic by Bolsonaro has led him to be accused of genocide throughout the country. He threatened to withhold federal funds from states which introduced lockdown measures. The state of collapse is reflected in the use of local currencies in some cities or towns. The collapse in living standards and the explosion of desperate poverty is reflected in six out of ten households not having enough food during the week. Fearing growing opposition, and the threat of being swept away by ‘Workers’ Party’ leader Lula, it seems clear that Bolsonaro was attempting to use the Brazilian armed forces as a Pretorian guard to defend him.

Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been a disaster for the Brazilian capitalist class. He was never their preferred choice of candidate. However, his rule has been more catastrophic than even they had feared. The unprecedented resignation of the commanders-in-chief of the army, navy and airforce who opposed his attempt to prepare the ground to use the armed forces to defend him, is an illustration of how far the crisis has developed. All of the opinion polls so far point to a clear victory for Lula in a contest against Bolsonaro. Most point to over 50% for Lula and around 30% for Bolsonaro. Whilst some workers and youth are sceptical about Lula when weighed against Bolsonaro he is viewed as the only alternative. The bourgeoisie would hope to use a Lula presidency to try and stabalise the situation and prevent it from spiralling out of control.  It cannot be excluded that Bolsonaro will attempt further steps to mobilise the base of support that he still has amongst sections of the military to try and cling to power. Such a development would provoke uproar and a massive social explosion. Yet these developments illustrate, along with the upheavals in India, the limits of reaction.

Modi in India has conducted a vicious Hindu nationalist campaign whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments and enacted brutal repression. The devastating horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the scale of the mass slaughter it is causing throughout the country, is a direct consequence of Modi’s policies. This can have a devastating political effect throughout the country and undermine and weaken Modi in the coming period possibly threatening his rule. He has already been confronted with an enormous 250 million-strong general strike in 2020 and the ongoing movement of the farmers. As in other mass movements, the official ‘left’ in the form of the Communist Parties in India did not provide the leadership necessary to take the movement forward but held them back. The failure by them to offer a combative independent alternative of the working class and poor means that the mass protests against the government may not be reflected electorally. It is even possible for Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party to emerge as the largest party in elections in West Bengal a former stronghold of the Communist Parties.

Multiple uprisings – what lessons and what next?  

The multiple crises which have taken place during the pandemic have been accompanied by multiple uprisings or mass movements in a series of countries: Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Belarus, Haiti, Senegal, Iraq, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Thailand, Nigeria and the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and Britain, to name just some of them.

The dramatic events in Myanmar following the military coup in many respects went furthest and posed all of the central issues of revolution, counter-revolution and insurrection. The mass movement took on heroic features and has faced brutal repression by the military. An element of the crushing of the movement in China’s Tiananmen Square is present in the bloody response of the generals.

The need to build democratic action and defence committees to organise the struggle was starkly posed. Such assemblies were necessary to take steps to organise the supply of food, communication, propaganda, and in particular to form defence committees as a step to establish an armed militia. These steps were necessary to prepare the way for mass mobilisations and a general strike leading to an armed insurrection. A strategy and tactics to seize weapons from the army and police and to split them were needed to organise an insurrection and establish a government of workers and the poor, and not to rely on the bourgeois opponents of the military, was crucial. A party of the working class with a revolutionary socialist programme was essential if this movement was to succeed.

The absence of the consciously organised forces of the working class and poor together with such a party has resulted in the movements which have erupted becoming worn down, exhausted or defeated. The prospect of civil war, division and disintegration is a serious threat in Myanmar in the coming months.

These movements have demonstrated heroic resilience and bitter hatred towards the ruling regimes, the rich, the established political parties and even the capitalist system. However, a rounded out socialist political consciousness has not yet developed. The idea of a “revolution” against the existing regimes was very popular in many of these movements, but the idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism was not present among the mass of participants. Yet as the recent upheavals in Lebanon have shown, new uprisings and social explosions can rapidly emerge. Where the existing regimes have gained the upper hand, or new bourgeois governments have taken over, they have not done so on a stable basis. In the main, the movements which have taken place have not suffered a bloody crushing defeat.

These events are a dress rehearsal for even bigger social uprisings which can take place in the coming period. The defeated 1905 Russian revolution proved to be preparation for success in 1917. An element of that is present in the movements we have witnessed in the recent period. The crucial difference was that in 1905 it was the working class as a class that clearly put itself at the head of the movement and developed the formation of the soviets. This has not been the case in recent uprisings. They can however prepare the way for such developments in the future. The social, political and economic situation which exists in many countries is such that revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations can develop during the course of this crisis. The social, political and economic situation in Turkey makes it one candidate for this type of social explosion. During such events, new forms of organisation can be thrown up by the masses. Revolutionaries need to be prepared for this and not simply look for a simple repetition of what has taken place in previous revolutionary movements. In such events even small revolutionary socialist groups with the correct programme, slogans and tactics can have an impact and take big steps forward.

These processes can take place in the industrialised capitalist countries as well as in the neo-colonial world. China with its massive industrial working class can also see big movements which will have decisive consequences globally. These could be triggered by the growth in China is cut across and reversed. However, other events apart from an economic downturn can also trigger social upheavals. We face features of revolution and counter-revolution existing internationally in a pronounced and increasingly brutal form. There has been a taste of this in the upheavals which have rocked the USA, Brazil, India and other countries.

The social polarisation and recourse to more authoritarian forms of rule, including forms of parliamentary Bonapartist regimes, in the industrialised imperialist countries and the neo-colonial world, reflect that the old forms of governing are not suited to the explosive social and political situation present in most countries. The defence of democratic rights is a vital part of the programme of the working class and socialists.

It is important to recognise the speed at which events can change. This has been illustrated during the recent elections in Peru. Three Presidents have fallen in the last twelve months. In the recent elections, the lead was taken by Pedro Castillo. He and his party, Peru Libre, which declares itself Marxist, came from nowhere to win the largest share of the vote although it is unlikely to win the second round. The party emerged from a bitter strike of the teachers which Castillo led.

Europe – Germany a historic crisis

In Europe, the dramatic change in fortune of Merkel and her government is extremely stark. Presented as a success in managing the pandemic, a series of major splits and divisions have now opened as the botched handling of the vaccine role out and surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths have hit. This has provoked deep unease and questioning of governments at all levels about the way the country is run. Open clashes have broken out between the federal government and local state governments. Divisions have opened up in the ruling CDU/CSU alliance and within the CDU. Support for the CDU has slumped with the Greens emerging as the great victors at this stage. The Greens expect to be in the federal government, possibly as the largest coalition partner after September’s elections.

While some recent polls show they are the largest party and may have the possibility of forming a coalition with the Social democratic Party (SPD) and The Left (Die Linke), the Greens are keeping their options open. The Greens are already in government in 11 of the 16 state governments with almost every party in different states – SPD, CDU, Die Linke and the FDP. It is a case of ‘these are my principles if you don’t like them I’ll change them’. In Baden-Wurttemberg, the Greens rapidly proposed continuing their coalition with the CDU, despite their having the possibility of forming a majority with the SPD. The exact composition of the next government remains open at this stage. However, coupled with important social movements such as the large-scale Berlin campaign for the expropriation of property companies and the spontaneous protests in Berlin against the lifting of rent caps, the worst crisis since the end of the second world war has begun in Germany. This is before a new period of economic crisis and opens a new chapter for the powerhouse of the EU.

The continued unpopularity of the arrogant Macron in France has been strengthened by the nature of the lockdown measures, including the introduction of a curfew. This is against the background of significant protests and strikes. Yet the absence of a combative coherent alternative from the left means that it is possible that Le Pen may win the presidency. This would undoubtedly be a shock for big sections of the population but would be certain to trigger a backlash. This illustrates that the threat of the far-right and populist right remains in many countries. The growth in electoral fortunes of VOX in Spain, the Fratelli d’Italia in Italy and AfD in Germany and others are examples of this. Even when these parties suffer from splits and possible division, like the AfD in Germany, they can reemerge in a different form.

In this period of fragmentation and instability elections represent less of an indication of what the real underlying social and political situation is. Politicians and parties elected one day can become detested and hated within days or weeks, such as the volatility of the situation which exists. Despite the catastrophic handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by Johnson in Britain, the successful role out of the vaccine, and the pathetic role of Labour leader Starmer, mean that the Tories are ahead in the opinion polls and will possibly emerge strengthened in the local elections. It is also possible that the government will be badly damaged by series of corruption revelations involving Johnson, government Ministers and former Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet should Johnson benefit electorally, this will not be a reflection of the real social situation and massive class polarisation which exists. This can erupt at any moment as recent protests and counter-attacks by the police have shown.

Throughout Europe and on all continents a seething bitterness exists. In the advanced capitalist countries the poverty, homelessness, massive use of food banks by those without resources to buy enough food, and attacks on working conditions are preparing the ground for massive social upheavals.

The ‘left’ in an era of capitalist crisis – need for a revolutionary socialist alternative

At the time of the greatest crisis faced by global capitalism since the 1930s the ‘left’ – both the established traditional Communist Parties and the newer formations like PODEMOS, France Insoumise, Die Linke, the Left Bloc, the Corbynistas – have revealed themselves to be unfit for purpose. A further political and ideological collapse has taken place in the face of this gargantuan global crisis. Die Linke is looking at entering into a coalition and is involved in a three-way factional struggle – not defending a coherent left socialist position. In France, Mélenchon, whilst articulating some radical left ideas, is refusing to build a party, wants a broad movement, and is taking up a nationalist stance. Having entered government with the Socialist Party (PSOE), the leader of PODEMOS, Pablo Iglesias, has resigned from it to try and head the regional parliament in Madrid without offering any political alternative. The Corbynistas have failed to offer any effective challenge to the counter-revolution Starmer has carried through in the Labour Party. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the USA has attacked anyone criticising Biden as doing so from a position of “privilege”.

In the neo-colonial world, the same process is at work. In India, the Communist Parties have failed to lead the movement and succumbed to the pressures of “lesser evilism” with no independent class position. This is a crucial issue in many countries especially those governed by right-wing populist forces. It is an important issue in India, Brazil and is emerging in Chile around the idea of ‘everyone united against Pinera’ and the idea of a ‘provisional government’. It is important that revolutionary socialists skillfully, take into account the mood for unity to defeat the right, but also defend the need for the working class to defend its political independence and programme as the best way to defeat the right, placing no trust or confidence in alleged ‘progressive’ sections of the capitalist class.

The future of all of these left political forces is in question. It is possible that from sections of them new organisations or parties could begin to be formed. Alternatively, new forces could emerge from new struggles and upheavals by the working class as seems to be partly the case in Peru with ‘Peru Libre’. These new parties will not be pure or fully rounded out in the process of them being built. It is important that Marxists and the CWI are prepared for various possibilities in the process of building new parties of the working class. Initiatives like TUSC in England Wales and Scotland or the SPN in Nigeria can be a step along the road in that direction. The crucial issue is to boldly raise the need for parties of the working class to be built, and at the same time to build parties and groups with a revolutionary programme.

This is part of the challenge facing the working class internationally, along with revolutionaries, to rebuild the parties and organisations of the working class.

Opposing national oppression

A crucial aspect of this crisis is that the national question has emerged in a more pronounced and sharper way as recently shown in Ireland, Catalonia, Scotland, Nigeria and other countries. In Nigeria, it is on a far deeper level involving armed uprisings and clashes.

The CWI defends the democratic rights of all oppressed peoples and the right to self-determination, the unity of the working class and internationalism. Where appropriate the CWI supports the struggle for independence and links it to the need for socialism and workers unity – for example in Scotland and Catalonia.  Yet each question has its own particular features and is very specific. Support for independence amongst different nationalities and ethnic groups is not fixed and can ebb and flow in each situation. Although not on the same level as Scotland a rise in support for independence in Wales has also developed, especially among young people. Capitalism is incapable of resolving the national question and other forms of oppression. It is therefore essential to link a struggle against national and ethnic oppression to the struggle for socialism and workers’ unity.

For a socialist alternative to capitalism

The depth of the crisis which is currently unfolding is leading to increasing elements of social disintegration and barbarism, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America, due to the absence of a mass socialist alternative. The brutal war in Ethiopia, the ethnic clashes and kidnappings in Nigeria, and the devastating drug wars being fought in Mexico where the drug cartels function as a rival state machine in some cities and states are all an indication of the decaying putrefying system of capitalism and landlordism. The need for a socialist alternative as the only solution to the pandemic of poverty, war and conflict is greater today than ever. A global solution to the pandemic, environmental, economic and social crises crashing down on the back of humankind is the only way to resolve these burning questions. It is the only way to fully apply the spectacular advances in science and technique that are taking place. For this to be achieved the system of monopolistic capitalism needs to be ended. It needs replacing with the democratic planning and public ownership of the productive forces by the working class to begin to build a socialist alternative. This is the future for humankind that the CWI is committed to fighting for.

We urge readers of this statement to read, discuss and debate this statement. Please send comments for discussion to the CWI.



Special financial appeal to all readers of

Support building alternative socialist media provides a unique analysis and perspective of world events. also plays a crucial role in building the struggle for socialism across all continents. Capitalism has failed! Assist us to build the fight-back and prepare for the stormy period of class struggles ahead.
Please make a donation to help us reach more readers and to widen our socialist campaigning work across the world.

Donate via Paypal

Liked this article? We need your support to improve our work. Please become a Patron! and support our work
Become a patron at Patreon!
April 2021