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Fourth International leader on Chavez's call for a new international

The meeting of left parties held in Caracas, November 19-21, 2009. Photo by ABN.

By François Sabado

November 26, 2009 -- During an international meeting of left parties held in Caracas from 19-21 November, 2009, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez launched a call for a Fifth Socialist International, which, according to him, should bring together left parties and social movements. According to Chavez, who is also president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the Fifth International must be “an instrument for the unification and the articulation of the struggle of the peoples to save this planet”. In a world political situation marked by a total crisis of the capitalist system, this is a fact important enough to be underlined.

Indeed, leaders or parties who pose the question of an international do not grow on trees. That is the first merit of Chavez’s call. All the more so as this call is accompanied by a declaration which denounces the systemic character of the capitalist crisis, beyond its financial and banking dimensions, and reaffirms the perspective of a socialism of the 21st century. It calls for an urgent mobilisation against the new imperialist offensive in Latin America, by the US administration and the Latin American right.

On the basis of this call, a broad world anti-imperialist front can be established, to mark its solidarity with the struggle of the peoples for their social and political rights, to oppose the new US bases in Colombia, to support, in particular, the mobilisation of the people of Honduras against the new dictatorial regime.

In the trial of strength in which the imperialists are confronted with the struggles of the peoples, such a world front would constitute an important instrument to fight the power of the ruling classes, not only in Latin America but in the whole world.

We are ready, as we have been since the beginning, in solidarity with the Cuban rRvolution, the Bolivarian revolution, with the experiences in Bolivia and Ecuador, to fully commit ourselves to the common fight against the imperialist attacks imperialists and to take our full place in this world anti-imperialist front.

It is also within this framework that the process of construction of a new International would be posed. Chavez calls for the establishment of a Socialist Fifth International. That puts back on the agenda the discussion about a new International. Chavez situates the building of the Fifth International in continuity with the Fourth. We have already declared on many occasions: what do labels matter, if there is convergence over the content. But the constitution of a new International implies a whole process around a program, policies, and an organisation, which must be carried out on the basis of a broad discussion with all the protagonists.

There is, indeed, a new historical period, where divergences between various revolutionary currents can be surmounted on the basis of “a common understanding of events and tasks”. From this point of view, it is not a question of discussing the historical balancesheets of different currents, but it is decisive to learn together the lessons from Stalinism and social democracy, so that the tragedies and the errors of the past are not repeated.

Each party, each organisation, each current and each militant must contribute to this debate. As for the Fourth International, it has already formulated, on many occasions, its proposals:

  • An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist program of emergency demands, which starts from the demands and the social needs of the popular classes, proposes a new distribution of wealth, public and social appropriation of the key sectors of the economy and leads on to the revolutionary transformation of society.
  • Unity of action of all the organisations, currents and militants against the attacks of the governments and the capitalist classes.
  • Independence of the social movements, associations and trade union organisations with respect to parties and states.
  • Solidarity with all struggles of peoples against all the imperialist powers.
  • The fight against oppression and the defence of the rights of women, homosexuals, young people and immigrants.
  • The fight for governments of the workers and popular classes which satisfy the principal social and ecological demands and base themselves on the mobilisation of the population and its control over the principal sectors of the economy. This perspective implies not participating in governments which manage the state and the capitalist economy along with the parties of the centre-left or social democracy.
  • The central character of the self-emancipation and self-organisation of peoples, in the perspective of overthrowing capitalism.
  • An ecosocialist project which combines both the satisfaction of social needs and the respect and balance of our ecosystem. In this sense, we have much to learn much from the Indigenous peoples of South America and their relationship to the land.
  • Socialist democracy as a project of society: self-management of the economy, democracy and pluralism of parties and social movements.

These are some themes for discussion in order to advance along the road of bringing together all anti-capitalists on an international level. They are the first ideas that we will defend in the process of constitution of a new International.

Last, Chavez’s call for a Fifth International also constitutes a point of support when it poses the question of a new International, independently of the Second (Socialist) International of which organisations like the social-democratic parties, the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) are members. But it is also necessary to clarify a question in the construction of a new International, that of the difference between state policies and the development of a political project. It is one thing is to conclude economic and commercial agreements with states which have anti-imperialist governments, to conclude such agreements with other states, including some which have reactionary regimes, or to oppose attacks of imperialism against certain countries. It is quite another thing to give political support to regimes like those of the Chinese Communist Party or the Islamic Republic of Iran. The project of the Fifth International cannot in any way at all be associated with these regimes.

Once again, this call creates the conditions for a new international discussion, indissociable from solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution. It is in this spirit that the Fourth international, its organisations and its militants, will answer Presente!

[François Sabado is a member of the executive bureau of the Fourth International and an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. He was a long-time member of the national leadership of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR). This article first appeared on the website of International Viewpoint, the magazine of the Fourth International.]

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The Significance of Chavez' Call for a Fifth International

The Significance of Chavez' Call for a Fifth Socialist International

By Bill Leumer and Ann Robertson

Recently a conference was held in Caracas, Venezuela that included
representatives from socialist and left parties from around the world
and that culminated in an official statement, referred to as The Commitment
of Caracas. As reported by Venezuela Analysis, one of the points included
in this statement was reference to a call by Hugo Chavez, President of
Venezuela, for the formation of a Fifth International in
order to promote the defeat of capitalism and the creation of “Socialism of
the 21st Century.”

This conference and the official statement hold tremendous significance for
socialists in particular and the working class in general
around the world. It contains several points we wish to highlight.

First, the statement calls for the replacement of capitalism by socialism,
pointing out that capitalism threatens the survival of humanity as well as
the survival of all life, because capitalism combines “the economic crisis,
with an ecological crisis, a food crisis and an energy crisis.”

Second, some parties that have signed the statement, for example, from
Venezuela and Bolivia, are large, mass political organizations, which means
that powerful resources may be available for the creation of a world
socialist movement.

Third, it calls for an “ideological debate on the fundamental aspects of the
process of construction of socialism.”

Fourth, it recognizes that the Third International degenerated under
Stalinism, which betrayed struggles for socialism around the world.

Finally, and most importantly, as already mentioned, the statement of the
conference notes that it “received” the call by Hugo Chavez for the creation
of a Fifth International and voted to “create a WORKING GROUP comprised of
those socialist parties, currents and social movements who endorse the
initiative, to prepare an agenda which defines the objectives, contents and
mechanisms of this global revolutionary body.”
The conference also called for a “constitutive event” in Caracas in April
2010 that would aim at organizing this new international.

This call for the creation of a Fifth International can serve as a lightning
rod for uniting socialist parties and social movements around the world in
order to magnify by many times the power of the movement for socialism. The
new totality, achieved on an international basis, will be far greater than
the sum of its constituent parts. Moreover, in countries where socialist
parties currently do not exist or are small and lack any substantial power,
the Fifth International has the potential to serve as a pole of attraction,
thereby overcoming the isolation and accompanying sense of hopelessness and
demoralization of those fighting for a better world. It can therefore serve
as an indispensable tool in helping working people around the world organize
themselves in order to fight against the routine daily assaults of
capitalism that are throwing increasing numbers of humanity into abject
poverty and completely destroying the environment while at the same time
making
a tiny minority obscenely rich.

By joining such an international, socialist parties will be able to
translate their aspirations for a better world into a framework that can
realistically hope to achieve revolutionary change. It has the potential to
forge the indispensable link between theory and practice.

This Fifth International can promote the strategical approach embodied in
united front structures that can unite working people around the world in
opposition to the capitalist class that oppresses them. The united front
brings together working people, although they might adhere to different
political points of view or persuasions, in order to unite workers as
workers rather than as members of a single political party. In
other words, it unites working people as a class and in this respect
promotes the development of class consciousness.

Therefore, it encourages working people to act independently of the
capitalist class in defense of their own interests, as opposed to their
feeling compelled to support one capitalist candidate or another in exchange
for a few crumbs.

Moreover, the united front approach is an attempt to win the majority of the
working class to a revolutionary perspective by organizing workers, first
and foremost, to put up a fight in defense of their interests. It begins
with those issues that workers themselves want to win and are prepared to
fight for, no matter how modest these issues might be from a revolutionary
perspective. In this respect, the united front approach is
distinguished from the approach of social democrats, who are fundamentally
reformists and do not want to put up a fight.

The social democrats look to the capitalists to give workers some gains and
are prepared to accept anything that comes their way, or nothing. The united
front approach is also distinguished from the approach of the ultraleftists
or sectarians who are only prepared to support a struggle if it exhibits a
sufficiently revolutionary content. For example, the united front approach
is prepared to take up a strugglen for higher wages, if that is what workers
want and if that is all they are prepared to fight for. The ultraleftists
or sectarians insist on injecting more revolutionary demands into the
struggle, even at the expense of alienating all, or almost all, the workers
in the process.

The united front approach, by encouraging workers to put up a fight,
establishes a link between the day-to-day struggles of workers on the one
hand and the struggle for socialism on the other hand, because the act of
standing up and organizing a fight has the potential to fundamentally alter
the consciousness of all those involved and raise it in a revolutionary
direction.

When this is achieved, the relation of forces between workers and
capitalists is changed to the advantage of the working class.

Although the call for the Fifth International deserves enthusiastic support,
those who respond must be vigilant, since the road ahead
can contain many pitfalls. One must not allow this international unwittingly
to degenerate into another social democratic formation, where instead of
fighting for socialism, members are content to reform capitalism. In fact,
some of the formulations in the Commitment of Caracas leave open the
possibility of being interpreted as endorsing such a deviation. For
example, the statement declared: “One of the epicenters of the capitalist
crisis is in the economic domain; this highlights the limitations of
unbridled free markets ruled by private monopolies.” This might
be read by some to imply that what is needed are government regulated free
markets that are ruled by multiple private businesses that compete against
one another.

The fight for socialism, like everything really worthwhile, will be a long,
arduous struggle. Using the classical Marxist framework as a point of
departure, the essential ingredients of socialism include the following:

1. The fundamental pillars of the economy are nationalized and operates
according to a plan that has been determined democratically by the
entire population. Hence, it will serve the needs of the people, not the
profit margins of a rich minority at everyone else’s expense.

2. The people democratically control the government. The government does
not control the people.

3. Quality education (through college) and health care are considered basic
human rights and are free. Quality housing is available to all at affordable
prices.

4. Everyone is guaranteed a well-paying job. People are rewarded first and
foremost according to how much work they perform.
By guaranteeing work for everyone, as opposed to the capitalist system of
condemning large numbers of working people to the ranks of the unemployed,
the workweek can be reduced.

5. The environment is cleaned up and pollution is eliminated.

6. Government administrators can be recalled at any time and may not be
paid more than working people.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

About the Authors:

Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local
853 (ret.). Ann Robertson is a teacher at San Francisco State University
and a member the California Faculty Association. Both are writers for
Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).

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