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Fourth International: Report on international situation to the 16th World Congress; Role and tasks of the FI

By Laurent Carasso

February 2010 -- This report will not attempt a detailed survey of the world but will try to stress what is most significant, what, in our view, should come under a common understanding of events and tasks. On many regional situations, the comrades will broadly enrich the discussion through their interventions.

(I) The world situation is marked by crisis

For the first time in history, this crisis is located is explained by capitalist globalisation. No territory is immune. All the economic, social and political factors are interrelated worldwide. The economic crisis is not a conjunctural crisis. This is a systemic, structural crisis: this is the most serious crisis since 1929. The United States has lost 35% of its financial wealth and the Euro zone 25%. And, when governments speak of “emerging from crisis” we do not agree. There may be short-term recoveries, related to policies in support of activity in this or that country, but the countries of the centre -- the USA and Europe -- are not emerging from crisis. The explosion of public debt in southern Europe -- in Greece, Spain -- and the banking and financial uncertainty demonstrate the instability of the situation and a new phase of the crisis, at least in Europe.

The crisis is not over!

The current crisis is not a simple cyclical conjunctural crisis. It is part of a long-term structural crisis, a crisis of the “productive order” put in place by the neo-liberal counter-revolution at the end of the 1970s. The phases of “recovery” and “recession” have alternated for several decades but crises are increasingly deeper, they tend to follow an increasingly accelerated pace, they now strike the heart of the system, their overall cost is increasingly high.

The current crisis shows a deepening of the contradictions and "historic limits" of the system.

This crisis began in the financial sphere, but it cannot be reduced to a banking and financial crisis. It results from the combination of a crisis of over-production of commodities, over accumulation of capital and under-consumption:

  • At the end of the 1970s, when the phase of growth of the previous three decades came to an end, the dominant classes launched an offensive to restore the rate of profit, by lowering wages, privatising massively, developing mass unemployment, and deregulating social relations.
  • This pressure on wages, employment, and social expenditure resulted in a reduction in demand which, in turn, caused a surplus production capacity and therefore a problem of profitability for industrial production. There was, therefore, lower investment, because it was less profitable to invest in industry and more cost-effective to do it on the financial markets.
  • To offset this dual crisis, that of the production of surplus value with the decline of industrial profitability, and that of the realisation of surplus value with the fall in consumption, a dual crisis already analysed by Ernest. Mandel, at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, the system engaged in a headlong rush forward: the increasing search for profits on the financial markets through financialisation and debt, both private (that of households) and public (that of states).

This is what cracked in 2008. Banks and financial markets were first in line. One of the dimensions of the crisis is banking and financial, through the devaluation of what some called “fictitious capital”, but what has informed this spiral is the logic of capitalism itself: the quest for profit, searching for the best rate of profitability for invested capital, competition between capitals, private ownership of the key economic sectors.

These mechanisms have resulted in a long-term crisis marked by the following characteristics:

(a) Growth limited to around 3-4% on a world scale with significant inequalities between only 1-2% in Europe, 2-3% in the USA and 8-10% for BRIC, although we cannot put on the same level the growth of India, of China and that for example of Brazil. Without China and India, world growth is very low.

(b) Maintenance of unemployment: 50 million and more unemployed in the OECD countries; over 217 million unemployed worldwide according to the ILO. 20% unemployment in a country like Spain. Irreversible loss of jobs in the USA and Europe, between 3 and 5% of jobs.

(c) Reduced and limited consumption related to pressure on wages. Net increase in all emergency food aid services in the USA and capitalist Europe. More than 26% and more on food aid in the 27 major cities of the USA.

(d) Huge public deficits to contain the crisis (between 8 and 13%), deficits and public debt between 70 and 80% of GDP.

(e) Explosion of liquidity and new speculative bubbles: flows of capital to emerging countries to the detriment of investment in the centre, stock markets up, speculation in raw materials

(f) The accounts are far from being cleaned of toxic assets. New bank failures are not to be ruled out.

This leads the employers and the dominant classes to redouble attacks against workers and peoples. This time of crisis is a time of a new offensive by capital:

(a) There is now a global market of the labour force, which requires more competition between capitals and between workers. The crisis of 2008 has accelerated the restructuring of enterprises, with plans often already envisaged for the reorganisation of production in the main branches of activity, with layoffs, more flexibility and precariousness. This exerts downwards pressure on wages and workers’ rights. These attacks will continue and further degrade the living conditions of hundreds of millions of workers.

(b) Attacks on public services are growing. The goal is to sharpen attacks on social protection, health, pensions, throughout Europe.

(c) The corollary of these social attacks is worsening security policies, police control and social control over populations with an increase in state violence, as evidenced in Brazil or Mexico, military and police violence of which the poor, children and women are the first victims.

Greece and Spain are a laboratory. They announce a wave of austerity policies throughout Europe. To offset the debt and deficits, the dominant classes, the financial markets and the European Central Bank require the dismantling of public services, reducing the number of public employees, wages and social protection. In Greece, the government uses “debt terrorism”" to impose these social setbacks, the challenging of a service structure and public sector which remained significant.

After a moment of panic and beyond ideological gestures “on the return of state” (as if it had disappeared!) and the moralisation of financial markets and capitalism” neoliberal policies have been confirmed.

This settles a debate on the possibilities of a Keynesian turn. This is not about returning to a historic debate but understanding the dynamics of the crisis. There was, in contrast to 1929, massive intervention by states to contain the crisis -- of neoliberal statism -- but at this stage, neither the relationship of social forces nor the choices of the dominant classes are moving, as was the case after 1945, towards new public policies, a new social security, a revival of demand, the creation of new sectors of production and massive job creation. There is no perspective of the equivalent of a new phase of "mass production" and "mass consumption" as at that time, with the socio-political reports which were constructed at the period.

(II) It is in this context that the climate crisis will worsen

As the failure of the Copenhagen Conference showed we knew that capitalism could not solve the environmental crisis. Where we need to think “social needs”, capitalism thinks “profit”". Where coordination, planning, long-term choices are necessary, capitalism thinks “competition of capitals and private property”.

But what Copenhagen, shows is that the capitalist system cannot be transformed into "green capitalism". States and governments don’t want or cannot fix objectives for greenhouse gas reduction targets which meet the needs of the crisis. The objectives of the IPCC are not respected. What matters are capitalist interests, finding new markets, particularly on rights to pollute, but not "green" reorganisations of energy, urban planning and transportation. Green capitalism is not emerging as the "New Deal" for the 2010s. Beyond the competition between capitals that prevent a balanced ecological crisis response, green business accounts barely more than 2% of jobs in 10 years. There is not on the horizon a “green production and mass consumption”, a revival of the system by a green capitalism. Although governments and the major groups manipulate the ecological question for imposing nuclear energy or justifying the expulsion of the indigenous peoples of entire regions in Asia or Latin America.

(III) One of the specific characteristics of the current crisis, is the combination of a `world collapse' in the framework of capitalist globalisation

This is neither a complete nor irreversible process but the centres of gravity of the world situation are moving.

The USA is in relative decline. The two terms are significant. For the following reasons:

  • The share of the US economy in the world economy is falling. As in Europe, it is undergoing a process of de-industrialisation. Its debt has reached dizzying proportions. Its positions in the world have worsened notably in their bogging down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The choice of Obama, for the dominant classes, was precisely to retake the initiative but the depth of the economic crisis in the USA, the difficulties met in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the need to accept certain forms of multilateralism illustrate well the limits of his policy. There is clearly a challenge to the US hegemony of the 1980-2000 period, and Obama has not succeeded in reversing the tendency: But “relative decline” because the USA remains the biggest world power. The US market is immense. The dollar, supported by the Chinese and Japanese investment, remains the currency of reference, And above all its military hegemony is indisputable. In this situation of economic decline, military intervention and attempted geostrategic control, in terms of territory, natural resources, raw materials, like oil, are of capital importance. The Middle East, Asia Minor or Latin America are its targets. The military choices in Afghanistan, Honduras or Haiti witness to the US military aggressiveness. It is, also, a means of aligning the other imperialist powers, notably through NATO. The zones of political and military confrontation with US imperialism should concentrate all our attention.
  • This puts on the agenda the importance of our movement’s intervention against the war, a unitary mobilisation for the withdrawal of US troops from these countries, the defence of the sovereignty of those countries, the defence of democratic freedoms. With the endorsement of the USA, the state of Israel serves as relay for this policy of aggressive war: in three years, two wars of aggression in Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip with more than two thousand victims, and the ongoing development of new threats against Lebanon. These wars are part of this whole “war on terror”, and require continuing our solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people and the recognition of its legitimate rights. In countries like Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, we combine the demand for the withdrawal of troops, the central task, with support for progressive groups and activists, and the battle in the face of domination by the Islamic fundamentalist currents. We reject the threats against Iran, at a time when a similar media campaign to that which preceded the invasion of Iraq is being constructed, and we support the masses against the Ahmadinedjad regime and their fight for democracy.

But one of the central questions of the world situation concerns the new relations being established between China, India, the USA and the rest of the world. Whereas the growth of the USA and Europe is around 1-2%, China’s was 9% in 2009 and it should record a rate of around 10% for 2010. In commercial terms, China has become the world’s biggest exporter and the third biggest importer of commodities, the seventh and the fifth for services. China is now responsible for 8.7% of world exports of commodities (or the equivalent of the US) and 6.7% of world imports (as against 14.1% for the US). Already it is elbow to elbow with Japan as the second world economy and the biggest word exporter. Chinese giants compete with transnationals in key sectors like aeronautics or transport. Millions of hectares in Latin America and Africa are exploited by Chinese companies and the Chinese state. China has become a world economic power. Now “the workshop of the world”, Chinese growth is export oriented.

But it is also experiencing a massive rapid process of industrialisation and enlargement of its internal market which hast considerably developed in recent years. At the political level, China is undoubtedly the leading Asian power. This region is marked by the interventions of US and Japanese imperialism and powers with global ambitions such as China and India. In recent years, it is China which has most extended its domination over the region (freezing or resolution of a large number of its territorial conflicts with its neighbours, strengthening of relations with South Korea, normalisation of relations with Japan, strengthening of Taiwan’s economic dependency on continental China, free trade agreement with ASEAN, increased Chinese power in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and so on). For a decade or so, China has increased its partnerships all around the world, in Africa especially, so as to reduce its energy dependency. Millions of hectares in Latin America and Africa are exploited by Chinese companies and the Chinese state. Long term contracts on raw materials are accompanied by undertakings from China to develop the infrastructures of suppliers at advantageous conditions. China also offers loans at very low interest rates without political conditions.

Nonetheless, China is faced with structural weaknesses:

  • Its growth is highly dependent on exports.
  • It has to import raw materials and components in large quantities.
  • Its internal demand is very unbalanced, being essentially based on investment while household consumption is very low. To better escape crisis, it would be necessary to rebalance growth favouring household consumption, and for that it would be necessary to massively increase purchasing power, reduce inequality and create genuine social protection.

Immediately, strong inequalities are reflected in growing social tensions and inter-ethnic conflicts. China’s GDP is perhaps the second biggest in the world but its income per inhabitant remains that of a third world country. The rapid aging of the population coupled with a virtually non-existent pensions system will pose a serious problem in the coming decades. Every Chinese youth will have to maintain their two parents and four grandparents.

The recovery policy rests on a massive development of credit which is reflected by a notable recovery of the real estate market and investments on the stock exchange. There is a danger of this degenerating into speculative bubbles.

It is also necessary to point out the weaknesses of its military apparatus in relation to that of the USA. Nonetheless, China has become a major regional military power with a nuclear strike capacity. The Chinese government wishes to develop its military power to accompany the development of its economic power. For several years, the Chinese government has been significantly increasing its military expenditure. Its land forces are already among the world’s biggest. But significant weaknesses remain in the navy and air force which the government is seeking to remedy. This modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) raises concerns, in particular in the US and Japan.

The two powers -- the USA and China -- enjoy a mutual and conflictual dependence. The exchange rate problem between the dollar and the yuan is an example. The US wants the Chinese government to revalue the yuan so as to reduce its trade deficit in relation to China and revive its economy. But the Chinese trade surplus allows it to accumulate huge dollar reserves which it invests in US treasury bonds, allowing the US to finance the salvaging of its economy.

These modifications in the relations of forces between the USA and China now allow the Chinese economy to pull world growth. It is a new and fundamental factor in the world situation, whose limits should be grasped: the Chinese economy is still very far from being able to offer sufficient outlets to bring the world economy as a whole out of crisis. It is still far from replacing the USA in this role.

(IV) The global crisis also hits Latin America

This is the case, albeit unevenly with some countries experiencing growth, but also in special forms, such as a "crisis of civilisation" in terms of ecological crisis or relations between social, national and ethnic struggles.

South America is one of the highlights of the social and political confrontation against US imperialism.

We would like to emphasise three points, which witness to three projects at work today in the region:

  • The striking trait is the offensive of US imperialism and the Latin American right against the peoples. After the failure of the FTAA, a direct and indirect offensive has resumed: diplomatic as in the “Summit of the Americas” in Trinidad and military as in Honduras and in Haiti.
  • This can go as far as forms of recolonisation as in Haiti, with a demonstration of force of American troops a few hundred kilometres from Venezuela. Colombia has a central role in this scheme.
  • This offensive is also reflected by electoral victories as in Chile and the political attacks from the right as in Argentina, Venezuela or Paraguay.

The second factor to stress is Brazil’s place in international politics and the economy. In terms of infrastructure, exploitation of natural resources and agro-exports, Brazil plays a major role. Brazilian multinational companies supported by the government, like Petrobras, clearly play an imperialist role in the neighbouring countries. Brazil maintains traits of a dependent capitalist country, thus exports of industrial products decrease and those of raw materials increase relatively. But the new relationship of forces between the USA and Brazil must also be noted. This gives Brazil new capacities of political initiative. The position of Brazil on Honduras shows this well. The place of Brazil in the imperialist coalition for Haiti alongside the USA also illustrates Brazil’s new place.

In the 1960s, there was already talk of “sub-imperialism”, some use the notion of "peripheral imperialism". This concept can be discussed, and it is up to the Latin American comrades to enlighten us on this point, but there is undoubtedly a new role for Brazil.

The main countries of the ALBA constitute a third group of countries, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. These are countries which at various levels have made partial breaks with US imperialism in terms of political confrontations, progressive social measures and constitutional reform processes. But each country has a specific situation. Ecuador has seen some important indigenous social mobilisations that have won new democratic rights from the government Correa. This was, moreover, by a series of confrontations. The Bolivian experience, with the creation of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) by the social movements, combines social, Indigenous, and national mobilisations and progressive measures. Evo Morales has won the elections. The popular classes and social movements expect much from this victory. Venezuela is also at the crossroads.

Either there is a breakthrough of the revolution in the Bolivarian process, replying to the attacks of the right but also addressing the fundamental structures of the economy in terms of social conquests, nationalisation and workers’ control. This involves stimulating democracy and the mobilisation of the masses. Either the project of state capitalism and the “Bonapartist" traits of the regime consolidate with an internal bureaucracy of the regime which will smother the process. There may be positive measures like nationalisation or social aid interventions, but the general pace of the process shows a series of worrying signs.

As for Cuba, which occupies a special place and which should merit a more thorough treatment in our discussions, it is still the target of the USA and requires from us an active defence against imperialism.

But beyond these political classifications there is in Latin America a dynamic of polarisation between the popular struggles and imperialism. Social and political tension take on an ever more acute character. It is the continent where there has been in the last period the highest accumulation of social resistance and revolutionary experience. Its uneven and combined development may create the conditions of an alliance of workers, peasants and Indigenous peoples, for their fundamental rights, of an alliance of anti-capitalism and radical or revolutionary nationalism against imperialism.

(V) Asia is one of the parts of the world where the implosion of the USSR has had especially deep consequences `unfreezing' the alliances created during the Cold War

Beijing displays its ambitions, while New Delhi plays a growing political and military role from Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, destabilising Pakistan still further. The whole region has entered a phase of geopolitical instability favourable to the rise of militarist nationalism, as in Japan, inter-ethnic tensions and religious fundamentalism. The relationship of forces between regional and world powers (USA, Japan, China, India and so on) becomes undecided. A new arc of crisis appears stretching from the Korean peninsula to Afghanistan and central Asia, passing by Mindanao and Sri Lanka, multiplying potential sites of war while several of the countries concerned possess nuclear weapons (USA, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea to a certain extent, Japan tomorrow?). In this context, US imperialism is trying to strengthen its bases, from Diego Garcia to Okinawa, thus more generally its presence and possibilities for action, as in the Philippines (in particular Mindanao).

Globally Asia has been more resistant to the current economic crisis than other regions, with average growth rates remaining higher. But that should not conceal strong disparities between countries or sharp social tensions underpinned by the enrichment of the capitalist class and some middle layers contrasted to the overexploitation of millions of workers and peasants. Since the financial crisis of 1997, the popular layers have suffered a series of attacks on their social and environmental rights with cumulative effects. Some countries are undergoing acute institutional and social crises, such as Thailand or the Philippines.

The capacities of popular resistance and response are very unequal according to the case. In some countries left forces, initially weak, have recently undergone significant and encouraging development (Pakistan, Malaysia). But bigger forces remain divided in other countries, like India or the Philippines. In some cases, they have not been able to overcome a state of fragmentation (Indonesia) whereas elsewhere it is necessary to reconstruct a political and trade union movement on a basis of class independence (Thailand, China). However, beyond this diversity of situations, the regional links between political, associative and social movements have been significantly strengthened in the region: affirmation of solidarity, anti-imperialist and anti-war struggle, resistance to neoliberal policies by peasants and other toilers, calls for the cancellation of the debt and respect for food sovereignty, struggles combining social demands, democratic rights and responses to the ecological crisis. The reinforcement of these regional networks and their integration in the world movements constitute a point of support for the coming struggles.

(VI) Africa, meanwhile, remains a continent devastated by capitalist globalisation and the effects of the global crisis

The climate crisis and the food crisis are of a particular severity. After decades of structural adjustment policies (privatisation of the state economic sector, liberalisation of markets, priority to exports and debt repayment) imposed by imperialism through international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund, Africa remains dependent on the export of agricultural, energy and mining raw materials, to the countries of the centre. That is why it is hit by the decline of demand in those countries. Despite significant Chinese demand, growth fell from 9% in 2007 to 5.1% in 2008 and 1% in 2009

This fall in the rate of growth is accompanied by the particular gravity on this continent of the food crisis resulting from the increase in the prices of foodstuffs. Excluded from sharing the fruits of growth by the imperialist capitalists and local bourgeoisies, the popular layers see their situation deteriorate further: lower real wages, difficulties of access to fertile land, tens of thousands of victims of neocolonial wars described as “tribal” or “religious”, youth unemployment, violence against women, natural disasters related to climate warming. The violence of neoliberalisation has produced a dynamic of popular mobilisation in various countries. Struggles against the high cost of living, and for access to drinking water, electricity, health, for the right to education mark African social and political life. In this process, it is urgent that supporters of a socialist alternative among activists and organisations undertake joint work beyond the different traditions. In North Africa, recent years have seen a multiplication of significant social struggles, caused by the European Unions’s desire that these countries play the role of its backyard.

(VII) Europe is the “weakest link” in the imperialist chain

Crisis is weakening the European Union. It shows the structural inability of European “governance”: the extreme weakness of the European budget -- less than 1% -- no European industrial policies, no debt agency, no European social policy. “Divergent dynamics" are fully evident according to each country’s place in the global economy and in the division of labour. The United Kingdom with its financial power, Germany with its industrial equipment goods, France with its specialties based on state industry such as nuclear power, weapons, aerospace and transportation. As a result, far from “creating major European groups for a European capitalism”, the big companies mix their capital and techniques with other global groups and competition between countries exacerbates. Europe is particularly struck by the explosion of debt as shown by the Greek crisis and Spanish and Portuguese weakness. Eastern European countries are also affected by the crisis, deepening their inequalities in development, their deficit and dependence in particular towards Germany.

To compensate for this weakness in a context of increasingly strong global competition, European bourgeoisies must “break what remains of the European social model”. Hence they attack democratic freedoms, in particular the rights of immigrants. But these attacks do not mechanically, automatically, lead to a development of social resistance, and a growth of the labour and anti-capitalist movements.

There is social resistance but not at the level of the attacks. In the 1930s, there was a time gap between the crisis and the social and political reactions. We can say “wait” but at this stage, there have not been generalised social struggles.

But on the right, the economic crisis poses a representation problem of the dominant classes. That also saps the social base of the classic bourgeois parties and provokes internal tensions and contradictions, favouring the emergence of populist or fascist parties; the crisis has weakened the traditional right.

But it has also weakened the traditional left which fundamentally has no different policies from the right in response to the crisis. The crisis has not resulted in a turn to the left by the social-democratic parties. It has deepened their social-liberal adaptation process. Social democracy maintains social and political relations with the history and reality of the labour movement, but it is ever more integrated with the highest levels of the state and capitalism. There can be this or that particular tactical positioning or “left” inflection, but more than ever, social democracy is located on the ground of crisis management in the service of the capitalists. This process is also marked on the trade union side, including within the framework of the ETUC. This leads to a weakening of social democracy, confirmed in Germany, Portugal and France at the 2009 European elections. It will probably benefit from a new swing of the electoral pendulum, but it is experiencing an organic weakening and a neoliberal social transformation accentuated by the crisis. In Eastern Europe, the workers’ movement has not yet recovered after the Stalinist destruction. The restoration of capitalism in these countries has worsened the living conditions of millions of people. The role of major European trusts, subcontracting sources of production struck head on in 2008. Here and there new forms of organisation of the labour movement independent of the old apparatuses originating from Stalinism arise, but they are taking their first steps. This is also the case for small anti-capitalist groups or organisations.

Thus the margins of manoeuvre for the dominant classes do not reside in the strength of the parties of the right but rather in the weakening of the left and its policy of support for capitalist regimes.

This vision of the situation also leads us to a sober assessment of the process underway of reorganisation of the workers’ movement. This dual crisis of leadership -- right and traditional left -- opens spaces for new left political formations. But these spaces are more the product of a rightwards evolution in the old traditional political formations of the left than a new rise of class struggle. This must lead us to seize the opportunities but also to understand that there is in these spaces a need for a political struggle between anti-capitalists and left reformists, post-Stalinists, left ecologists. Hence the importance of our own intervention and our political responses.

(VIII) Therefore a political struggle is required around anti-capitalist and eco-socialist responses

(a) Through an emergency program of immediate and anti-capitalist demands: rejection of redundancies, reduction of working time, wage increases, defence, extension or creation of public services and systems of social protection and education.

The working class has never been so large in the world, but it is fragmented, divided, socially and politically. It is necessary to reorganise the social struggles against the crisis around basic demands, trade union organisations, social movements, notably by a politics of unity of action and a united front.

(b) It is necessary to impose a distribution of wealth that challenges the logic of profit, by taking back the shares of added value that capital has removed from employees in recent decades, giving priority to social employment needs, health, education, a decent income, leisure -- and making incursions into capitalist property. Thus the budget funding of these social needs must radically question the policies of structural adjustment imposed by imperialism, which means taxing capital and public appropriation of the banking sector under workers’ control. In a series of sectors affected by the crisis there has been, as in Argentina or Venezuela, experiences of control, relaunch of production, management of companies. These experiences should be popularised. Collective ownership of natural resources is a fundamental requirement in Asia, Latin America and Africa

This anti-capitalist program is also ecosocialist. It implies, notably faced with climate change, a new policy centred on a new town planning, a transport policy, a reorganisation of the energy sector favouring renewable energies, a reorganisation of entire branches of the economy. These choices over the medium and long term are not compatible with the profit motive and capitalist competition. They involve democratic debates and decisions in the context of a planned coordinated economy under workers’ and popular control which poses the problems of public and social appropriation, of choices of production corresponding to the needs of local populations.

This is the dynamic at work in the mobilisations of Indigenous peoples. In this context the questions of control by the people and of democracy are central.

(c) We are well aware that, faced with the crisis, all the more since this crisis is a combination of economic and ecological crises, our responses cannot be reduced to a revival of demands and a reform of the functioning of financial markets, in short to a Keynesian program. A complete remoulding is necessary.

(d) Finally these programmatic dimensions must also be considered as tasks of a workers’ government. We do not face this question in all countries, but where it is the case, the defence of this program is incompatible with support or participation in governments of management of the capitalist economy and institutions. This is a key strategic issue. In the dominated countries the question of national and popular sovereignty and the fight for a constituent assembly must be combined with the demand for popular anti-capitalist governments.

Conclusion

To conclude, this crisis recalls “the historical limits of system”. More, it is necessary, beyond the cycles of struggles, to build on the consequences of the political and ideological crisis of the system to build anti-capitalist forces. But this does not mean a fall into catastrophism. There is no situation without a way out for capitalism. The system can survive and operate with crisis but the ecological, social and human costs will be high. It is this which should be denounced, its structural inability to meet social needs, and it is this failure that puts on the agenda the need for a change of socio-economic system and a break with capitalism.

The debate which arises on the socialist perspective is of primary importance. There is no way out without the overthrow of the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression, without collective ownership of the means of production. But this movement will not result simply from the contradictions of the system - to overthrow the system we need, at the national, regional, international scale an exceptional, revolutionary mobilisation and above all, an alternative that is credible in terms of consciousness, organisation and leadership. It is the historic and practical which is to be fulfilled and in which we will play our full role.

[Laurent Carasso is a trade union activist and a member of the national leadership of the New Anti-Capitalist Party, and of the bureau of the Fourth International. He was formerly a member of the political bureau of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR, French section of the Fourth International). This report was first published at the web site of International Viewpoint, magazine of the Fourth International. The report was presented to the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International, which was held in Belgium in February 2010.]

Role and tasks of the Fourth International

February 2010

1. We are in a context marked by an unprecedented combination of a global economic crisis and a worldwide ecological crisis, a multidimensional crisis without precedent, that puts capitalist and patriarchal civilisation into crisis. This is a major turning point. This dual crisis shows the failure of the capitalist system and puts on the agenda the reorganisation and reconstruction of an anti-capitalist workers’ movement.

The social and economic attacks and neoliberal counter reforms against the popular classes are going to increase. These attacks will particularly affect women, given that their situation is worse to start with (much higher rates of poverty, unemployment and casualisation than men) and they will have to compensate for the cuts in public services and social allowances increasing their unpaid work within the family. There will be more wars and conflicts.

Religious fundamentalism will be increasingly used as the ideological underpinning both for attacks on the popular classes, targeting notably women’s control of their own bodies, and wars and conflicts between nations and ethnic groups. A non-Eurocentric approach to sexual oppression and emancipation is important to opposing both Islamic fundamentalism in particular and the Islamophobic ideology of "clash of civilisations" that helps fuel it. Ecological catastrophes will hit millions of people particularly in the poorer regions making the situation of women who are heads of family disproportionately worse.

A new historical period is on the horizon. New relationships of forces between imperialist powers on world economy and politics are taking shape, with the emergence of new capitalist forces like China, Russia, India and Brazil. The combination of the weakening of US hegemony and the sharpening of inter-capitalist competition between Europe, Russia, Asia and the USA also has geo-strategic effects in new political and military configurations, with an increased role for NATO, and new international tensions. In recent years, US imperialism has compensated for its economic weakening by redeploying its military hegemony in the four corners of the world. The social and economic contradictions have led even in the USA to the discrediting of the Republican team around G.W. Bush. The election of Barack Obama as US president is a response to this discrediting as an alternative solution for US imperialism, even if his election also responds to a desire for change on the part of a section of US society which will be disappointed but is real.

In conclusion, the crisis makes obvious the failure of neoliberal ideology although the relationship of forces remains favourable to capital. As an ideology, it shows itself incapable of offering a solution, which is why the G20 proposals are a return to the past that blew up with the crisis, wrote an end to the Washington Consensus, but placed the International Monetary Fund in the decision-making centre with its clearly neoliberal priorities. All the contradictions inherent to this social system are going to are going to come under stress without social democracy and the centre-left being able to offer an adequate response. Even neo-Keynesian measures, which have not been adopted anyway, would not be enough to resolve the crisis. In this way the gap between the discourse, the pretensions of the class of the ruling class and the reality of the suffering and catastrophes which are inflicted on the peoples and workers, the building up of pressure on them, create the conditions for exacerbated social tensions and political crisis.

The crisis has a particularly harsh impact on women and on sexual minorities that are excluded from the family (or choose not to live in it) and are thus cut off from its resources. The crisis is driving many of the most marginalised people, such as transgenders, into even deeper poverty. This is true especially in dependent countries where a welfare state is weak or non-existent.

2. Social fightbacks are continuing to rise on a world scale but in a very unequal fashion and remain on the defensive. The global justice movement lost its dynamic that it had had up to 2004. The Belem World Social Forum (WSF) shows, nevertheless, the need and the possibility for international convergences, but in a framework where struggles are more fragmented and dispersed. In Europe the success of the mobilisations against the G20 and NATO give an indication of a renewal of the global justice movement. The Istanbul European Social Forum could be another important occasion. The World March of Women proposes a new occasion of common initiative in 2010 which could become a step in rebuilding and strengthening this international feminist movement.

  • In certain European countries -- France, Greece, Germany, Poland, Italy -- social struggles have a central impact on the political scene, but these struggles are not sufficient to block or turn around the underlying trends in the capitalist offensive and the effects of the crisis. They have not succeeded in overcoming the process of division and fragmentation of workers. These struggles remain defensive. They have not yet found an expression in terms of anti-capitalist consciousness. In this framework, in the absence of an anti-capitalist left reactionary, even xenophobic and racist alternatives and trends can get stronger.
  • In the Middle East, peoples are continuing to resist Western and Israeli occupation and aggression, in Palestine, in Iraq and in Lebanon. The murderous aggression waged by the Zionist government in Gaza, two years after that in Lebanon, has not been able to defeat the resistance. Although Hamas and Hezbollah are now the main political references in this resistance. Outside these organisations there are left currents that act not only with a perspective for national liberation but also for social liberation, which reject human exploitation and which reject categorically the segregation of women. This is the position that we want to strengthen.
  • Latin America continues to be the centre of resistance to neoliberalism and the continent with the most explosive situations, even though these are uneven from one country to another. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador experience the most radical processes, with partial breaks from imperialism that have meant some important advances at the levels of government and/or social movements. There are others where the prognosis is unclear, like Paraguay, and all these find in Cuba a point of reference. Some others maintain versions of neoliberal policies, with neo-developmentalism in Argentina, or social liberalism in Uruguay and Brazil. The latter, in spite of its sharp contradictions with the US, especially over defence policy, its membership of UNASUR and its agreements with Venezuela, nonetheless collaborates with fundamental policies of Washington and aims to achieve regional leadership. For their part, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Mexico remain clearly neoliberal.

Nonetheless, a new political situation is emerging, with the renewed imperialist threat in the region, with the presence of the Fourth US Fleet, the coup in Honduras, seven new US military bases in Colombia, the direct intervention of the US embassy in the most important trade union conflict in Argentina for years, the political and military interference in Haiti. All these aim to roll back the political advances and develop an international response. This means that the class struggle will intensify in Latin America in the coming period. The governments of Venezuela and Ecuador are moving back from their most radical proposals, showing two aspects in particular that cause concern: the orientation towards the extractaction of natural resources and the limited democratic participation of social sectors. In Bolivia, there is a radicalisation of the processes of change, which rests directly on the social movements.

Although these processes are in dispute, with advances and retreats, they run the risk, in the course of their evolution, of not advancing to anti-capitalist positions, unless there is a strengthening of the self-activity of wage earners, Indigenous peoples and other oppressed social sectors, and greater pressure from these sectors on the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

At the same time, the radicalisation of social movements, especially the struggle of Indigenous and peasant movements, is putting pressure on these governments and at the same time posing an clear anti-capitalist perspective, in defence of natural resources -- land, water, biodiversity, etc. -- and a change in the development model, as was expressed in the "Declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements" at the Belem WSF, and the recent assembly of ALBA TCP, which in its final statement denounced capitalism and called for its overthrow. The national, regional and international meetings of the social movements demonstrate the radical potential contained in the southern part of Latin America.

One urgent political task for the organisations is to stimulate the self-activity of the masses, generalising workers’ control and the creation of bodies of popular power; otherwise, in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, there is a risk of a definitive reverse and a consolidation of capitalism in these countries, where it is currently challenged.

The activity of the sections and groups of the Fourth Internationial in Latin America need to take into account these tendencies -- the national question in the region and the connections between anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism -- and define a tactic for intervention in a process characterised by the interrelation between the states that make up the ALBA and social movements with strong histories of self-organisation and self-management. These two forces sometimes converge and sometimes enter into contradiction. This implies promoting demands for unitary struggles in defence of the rights of Indigenous peoples, against the criminalisation of protest, privatisation, extractivism of natural resources, machismo, and the economic and ecological crises, thereby stimulating the strategic political debate about power and hegemony in our societies.

  • In a series of what are usually called emerging capitalist countries or those resulting from capitalist restoration -- China, Russia or the former Eastern bloc -- the whirlwind of globalisation is tending to proletarianise hundreds of millions of human beings. But this new social power, which can play a key role in the coming years, has not yet formed mass independent organisations -- trade unions, associations and political organisations capable of facing the challenge of this global reorganisation.
  • The pillaging of resources in Africa to the benefit of big capitalist multinationals is increasing with the complicity of the existing governments. The continued growth of GDP in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa does not benefit the population, only social inequality in increasing. Faced with the deterioration in living conditions, there have been major struggles, such as the general strikes in Guinea, the demonstrations in Togo, the general strike in the public sector in South Africa. The food crisis at the end of 2008 sparked many demonstrations. However, the absence of a political alternative is a heavy obstacle to the success of these struggles, such as in Guinea or in Cameroon. They are either diverted to wards bourgeois political formations as in Madagascar or they lose themselves in religious dead-ends as in Nigeria or Congo (DRC) or worse in ethnic or racist ones like in Kenya or South Africa. The building of democratic peoples’ and workers’ organisations’ remains an absolute necessity for the success of struggles.
  • In Asia, the ongoing fast development of capitalism in China and in India and in most of South-Asian countries raises crucial political questions. Around half of the global working class lives in Asia and the necessity to create or strengthen revolutionary parties in this part of the world is critical. The situation is very different from one country to another:

• China is of the outmost importance. Decades of repression explain why the creation of a revolutionary party in China has to start from scratch. Bringing the experience and tradition of the international labour movement to China will be necessary to stimulate the creation of a revolutionary party as well as international solidarity. The Fourth International will have to pay special attention to the social and political developments that the present international crisis could bring about in the near future.

• In India, whose population will supersede the Chinese one by 2050, and where faster industrialisation has increased the number of workers and the rural crisis is deepening, the political situation and our tasks are different. The labour movement is very well developed and organised but dominated by Stalinist or Maoist political parties. The construction of a revolutionary party defending our program cannot just ignore them.

• In South-East Asia, the situation is very uneven. In some countries like Thailand and Burma, the labour movement is very weak. In these countries there is neither social democracy nor radical left parties. In these countries our task is to establish stronger links with the social movements that are active in the defence of farmers, women and workers when trade unions exist. Indonesia and Malaysia are in an intermediary situation. There are some small revolutionary parties with whom we can engage a constructive political debate and collaboration.

• In the Philippines and Pakistan, the Fourth International has strong organisations which can be a basis of our political activity throughout Asia. In these countries we are confronted with Islamic fundamentalism. We oppose the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Muslim extremists in the Philippines like the Abu Sayaf because they are reactionary forces. We cannot make any agreement with them in the name of anti-imperialism. In other countries like Indonesia or Malaysia, we also could be confronted to Islamic fundamentalism and the FI has to strengthen its analysis.

• In Sri Lanka, after several decades of war, the government has defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam militarily but the root cause of the Tamil question has not yet been addressed. Besides, the Rajapaksa government uses open and brutal repression to silent his opponents and the media. The FI should be part of the international campaign of solidarity with the Tamil people. In all Asia, the FI defends the rights of ethnic groups and Indigenous peoples and support their struggle for self-determination.

• In Japan, the process of fusion of the two organisations linked to the FI is underway. Since September, they are jointly publishing a common newspaper. In South Korea too, where the labour movement is strong, there is also a convergence of different forces toward the creation of a new anti-capitalist party. Because this country has a strong tradition in the working-class struggle, the Fourth International has to follow this event closely. Besides, the FI should organise solidarity campaigns to support the militants of revolutionary parties who are now repressed by the state.

3. The dynamic of capitalist globalisation and the current crisis have also changed the framework of evolution and development of the traditional left. Reformist bureaucracies have seen their leeway considerably reduced. From reformism without reforms to reformism with counter-reforms, social democracy and equivalent forces in a series of dominated or developing countries are experiencing an evolution towards social liberalism; that is these forces are directly underwriting neoliberal or neo-conservative policies. All the forces politically or institutionally linked to social liberalism or to the centre-left, including the women’s movement, notably in the institutionalised forms of NGOs, women’s aid associations, etc. are to varying degrees, are being dragged into these qualitative changes in the workers’ movement and are incapable of formulating a plan for getting out of the crisis. What is more, we are seeing policies, such as that of the [Workers Party] government in Brazil, which are making the ecological crisis worse. The clash with these parties is more difficult since they maintain their control, particularly electorally, of part of the workers' movement, and it is therefore necessary to build a real, credible political alternative.

The traditional communist parties are continuing their long decline. They try to break this decline by grabbing onto the coat tails of the leading forces in the liberal left and the institutional apparatuses or falling back on their nostalgic and self-affirming positions. While there are sectors or currents who wish to build the social movements with anti-capitalist forces, such as Synaspismos in Greece, they are doomed to have contradictions and divisions because of their reformist nature. In effect, the decision to build anti-capitalist parties does not mean we are not cognisant of the existence of radical, anti-liberal, left-reformist currents that play a role and have electoral credibility. Therefore, they continue to be competitors and/or politcal adversaries. Their position can be reinforced by occasional tactical shifts –- generally electoralist -- to the left, by social liberalism, often to re-establish its consensus among the working class and popular sectors. This poses the challenge for us of implementing a united front offensive capable of responding to the needs of men and women wage earners. At the same time, when on the basis of clear political conditions we decide to intervene inside anti-liberal, reformist left parties (such as in the case of Die Linke), we do it with no illusions about the nature of these parties, and we build anti-capitalist tendencies linked to social movements, that fight electoralism, institutionalism and any attempt to compromise with capitalism.

4. We want to get involved in this reorganisation to create a new left that is capable of meeting the challenge of this century and rebuilding the workers’ movement, its structures, its class consciousness, its independence from the bourgeoisie at the political and cultural level.

• An anti-capitalist, internationalist, ecologist and feminist left

• A left that is clearly alternative to social democracy and its governments

• A left which fights for a socialism of the 21st century, self-managed and democratic and which has a coherent program for getting there

• A left that is conscious that for this goal it has to break with capitalism and its logic and thus that is cannot govern with the political representation with which it wants to break

• a pluralistic left rooted in the social movements and the workplaces which integrates the combativity of the workers, the struggles for women’s and LGBT liberation and emancipation and ecologist struggles

• A non-institutional left which bases its strategy on the self-organisation of the proletariat and the oppressed on the principle that emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves

• A left that promotes all forms of self-organisation by workers and by the popular classes that encourages thinking, deciding and doing things for itself and on the basis of its own decisions

• A left which integrates new social sectors, new themes such as those expressed by the World Social Forum in Belem and, above all, the new generations because you cannot make new things with old material

• An internationalist and anti-imperialist left which fights against domination and war and the self-determination of the people and which lays out the framework for a mass democratic international

• A left able to link the precious heritage of critical and revolutionary Marxism with developments of feminism, ecosocialism and the Indigenous movements of Latin America

• An independent and class-struggle left which fights for the broadest united action against the crisis and for the rights, the gains and the aspirations of the workers and all the oppressed.

These are the criteria and the general content of our orientation for building new useful anti-capitalist instruments for fighting the current system.

5. This is the aspiration in which the problems of building the Fourth International and new anti-capitalist parties and new international currents are posed. We expressed it in our own way, from 1992 onwards, so in the last two world congresses, with the “New period, new programme, new party”, developed in documents of the FI. We confirm the essential of our choices at the last world congress in 2003 concerning the building of broad anti-capitalist parties.

The Fourth International is confronted, in an overall way, with a new phase. Revolutionary Marxist militants, nuclei, currents and organisations must pose the problem of the construction of anti-capitalist, revolutionary political formations, with the perspective of establishing a new independent political representation of the working class that takes into account the diversity of the working class -- in gender, race, residence status, age, sexual orientation -- in defending a resolutely class-based program. Building broad anti-capitalist parties is the current response we offer to the crisis in the workers' and left movement and the need for its reconstruction. This project is based on mass struggles, bringing mass movements to the forefront and the emergence of a new generation.

Of course, this does not eliminate our revolutionary Marxist, ecologist, feminist internationalist identity and our basic aim of defeating capitalism to create a new ruling order based on democracy and direct participation: that is, a real socialist democracy. That is true on the level of each country and at an international level. On the basis of the experience of the class struggle, the development of the global justice movement, defensive struggles and anti-war mobilisations over the last 10 years, and in particular the lessons drawn from the evolution of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) and of Communist Refoundation in Italy and from the debates of the French anti-liberal left, revolutionary Marxists have engaged in recent years in the building of the PSOL in Brazil, of Sinistra Critica in Italy, of the New Anti-Capitalist party in France, RESPECT in England. In this perspective we have continued to build the experiences of the Bloco de Esquerda [Left Bloc] in Portugal and the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark. The common goal, via different paths, is that of broad anti-capitalist parties.

It is not a question of taking up the old formulas of regroupment or revolutionary currents alone. The ambition is to bring together forces beyond simply revolutionary ones. These can be a support in the process of bringing forces together as long as they are clearly for building anti-capitalist parties. Although there is no model, since each process of coming together takes account of national specificities and relationships of forces, our goal must thus be to seek to build broad anti-capitalist political forces, independent of social democracy and the centre-left, formations which reject any policy of participation or support to class-collaborationist governments, today in government with social democracy and the centre-left, forces which understand that winning victories on women’s rights, like in the abortion referendum in Portugal, strengthen the radical anti-capitalist forces.

It is on the basis of such a perspective that we must be oriented. What we know of the experiences of differentiation and reorganisation in Africa and Asia point in the same direction. Nevertheless in the countries of Latin America the construction of broad anti-capitalist parties should integrate from its beginnings a clear stand for socialism. It is through this complex and diverse process that we can make new advances.

Where we are working inside such broad political forces, it is important to fight for the right of self-organisation within these parties by women and LGBTs, and on this self-organisation’s being reflected in the parties’ programs and practice. This self-organisation is a means of resisting pressures towards electoralism and institutionalisation. In new radical political formations in several Latin American countries, the right to self-organisation is important to fighting for a 21st century socialism from below that rejects authoritarian tendencies and the temptation to repeat 20th century errors. In general within such broad forces, we start from an understanding, as an indissoluble part of our socialism, of the necessity for a collective and resolute response to all manifestations of prejudice including sexism, racism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and transphobia. We also fight for specific attention to organising by youth; for the integration of black, immigrant, women’s and LGBT issues into the party’s public statements and daily interventions; and for representation of specially oppressed comrades in the party leadership and among its spokespeople and candidates for office.

6. This is the framework in which we must approach the question of the relationship between the building of the Fourth International and a policy of anti-capitalism coming together at the national, continental and international levels. We must discuss how to strengthen and transform the Fourth International in order to make it an effective tool in the perspective of a new international grouping. We already have started, with limited results it has to be admitted, conferences of the anti-capitalist left and other international conferences.

On the international level, we have initiated, on this political basis, many conferences and initiatives of international convergence and coming together: the constitution of the European Anti-Capitalist Left (EACL), with the Portuguese Left Bloc, the Danish Red-Green Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party. We worked with organisations like the English Socialist Workers Party. Other parties -- even left reformists who had at one time or another a political evolution “to the left”, like Communist Refoundation in Italy, or Synaspismos, also took part in these conferences. We also held international conferences of revolutionary and anti-capitalist organisations, on the occasion of the World Social Forums at Mumbai in India and Porto Alegre in Brazil. On this level, we created bonds of solidarity with the Brazilian PSOL in its break with Lula’s PT. We have supported the efforts of our Italian comrades to build an anti-capitalist alternative to the policies of Communist Refoundation in Italy.

These few elements show the type of orientation that we want to implement. The different conferences this year such as those in Paris or Belem show the necessity and the possibility of joint action and discussion by a large number of organisations and currents of the anti-capitalist left in Europe. It is now necessary to continue a policy of open meetings and conferences on topics of strategic and programmatic thinking and joint action through campaigns and initiatives of international mobilisation.

7. The Fourth International and its sections have played and still play a vital role in defending, promoting and implementing a program of demands that are both immediate and transitional towards socialism; a united front policy that aims for mass mobilisation of workers and their organisations; a policy of working-class unity and independence against any type of strategic alliance with the national bourgeoisie; opposition to any participation in governments in the advanced capitalist countries that merely manage the state and the capitalist economy, having abandoned all internationalism or the fight for an end to inequality and discrimination on gender, racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation grounds.

The Fourth International has played and still plays a functional role to keep alive the history of the revolutionary Marxist current, “to understand the world”, to confront the analyses and the experiences of revolutionary militants, currents and organisations and to bring together organisations, currents and militants who share the same strategic vision and the same choice of broad convergences on revolutionary bases. The existence of an international framework that makes it possible “to think about politics” is an indispensable asset for the intervention of revolutionaries. Consistent internationalism must pose the question of an international framework.

But for historical reasons that it has itself analysed, the Fourth International does not have the legitimacy to represent in and of itself the new mass international that we need. So when it is a question of taking a step forward in the bringing together of anti-capitalist forces, these new organisations, in particular in Europe and Latin America, cannot relate to and join this or that current identified with the Fourth International, and this is true whatever the reference point -- the various Morenoites, the Lambertists, the SWP or other variants of Trotskyism.

Let us note, nevertheless, a major difference between the FI and all these tendencies, over and above political positions, and which is the credit of the Fourth International is that it is based on a democratic coordination of sections and militants, whereas the other international tendencies are “international factions” or coordinations based on “party-factions” which do not respect rules of democratic functioning, in particular the right of tendency. The historical limits of these international “Trotskyist” currents, like other ex-Maoist or ex-Communist currents, prevent us today from advancing in the crystallisation of new international convergences.

Chavez’s call to found a Fifth International

Chavez’s call to found a Fifth International poses other questions about its origins, its framework, that is to say, its viability. The Fourth International declares that it is willing to participate in the debates and preparatory meetings that may be organised. We will contribute our historic gains and our vision about what a new international and its programatic foundations could be. A genuine new international can only be born if its members share a program, an ability to intervene in society, a democratic, pluralist form of functioning, as well as clear independence from governments in order to break with capitalism.

In the present relationship of forces, the policy for advancing towards a mass international must rather take the road of open and periodic conferences on central political questions -- activity, specific themes or discussions -- which make possible the convergence and the emergence of anti-capitalist and revolutionary poles. In this sense, the Fourth International is in favour of the proposals from revolutionary Marxist currents and/or groups who share with us a common understanding of the international situation and our aspirations for building new international frameworks.

In the new anti-capitalist parties which may be formed in the years to come, and which express the current stage of combativeness, experience and consciousness of the sectors that are the most committed to the search for an anti-capitalist alternative, the question of a new international is and will be posed. We act and we will continue to act so that it is not posed in terms of ideological or historical choices, which are likely to lead to divisions and splits. It must be posed on a double level, on the one hand real political convergence on tasks of international intervention, on the other pluralism of the new formations, which must bring together currents of various origins: Trotskyists of different kinds, libertarians, revolutionary syndicalists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists.

So in general, when there have been concrete steps towards new parties, we have proposed that the new broad anti-capitalist party functions with the right of tendency or currents, and that the supporters of the Fourth International in these new parties organise themselves in ways to be decided, according to the specific situation of each party. Our Portuguese comrades in the Left Bloc, our Danish comrades in the Red-Green Alliance, our Brazilian comrades in the PSOL are organised, in particular forms, as a Fourth International current or in class-struggle currents with other political tendencies.

8. In this movement we are confronted with desynchronisations between the building of parties on a national level and the construction of new international groupings. There can be, in the present situation or in the next years, new anti-capitalist parties in a series of countries, but the emergence of a new international force, and all the more so, of a new international, is not, at this stage, foreseeable. A new international will only be the result of a prolonged period of joint action and common understanding of events and tasks for overthrowing capitalism. While we affirm a policy of international convergence, this confirms the particular responsibilities of the FI, and thus the need for its reinforcement. We can and we seek to represent an organisational framework that is attractive and, democratic, for revolutionary organisations which share the same political projects as ours. It is in this dynamic that the Filipino comrades are situated, the Pakistani comrades and the Russian comrades are situated, and that can be the case tomorrow of, for example, the Polish or Malian comrades.

9. We have, in fact, a particular role that is recognised by a series of political currents. We may be the only ones who can make political forces of various origins converge. This is, for example, what in Latin America the Venezuelan comrades of left currents of the Bolivarian process say to us. It is also the case in Europe, in the framework of the relations of the EACL and of other currents. So, the next world congress must be an important step for the meeting of all these forces. This congress will be a congress of the FI and there will be no organisational growing over at this stage. But we want the FI to play the role of a “facilitator” of convergences in the perspective of new international groupings.

10. As a result, in order to strengthen ourselves and play this role, all the bodies of the FI must be reinforced: regular Bureau meetings, International Committees, specific working commissions, travel, exchanges between the sections. It is necessary to reinforce the activity that the Fourth International has deployed over the last few years in regularising and strengthening EPB meetings and the efforts of coordination between the Latin American sections. The meetings of the International Committeee (IC) which are held every year representing about 30 organisations must ensure the organisational continuity of our international current.

Lack of resources as well as the decline in the presence of women, notably in our leading bodies, in the last period (the result of the decline in activity of a strong autonomous women’s movement which has had an impact on our national organisations and thus the FI), have meant that we have not sustained an active women’s commission and a corresponding network of regional meetings and international schools. Three women’s seminars have been held since 2000 as well as meetings of the women comrades present at each IC. These have maintained a limited and fragile but neverthless real feminist internationalist perspective. In the next period, given the centrality of our understanding of women’s oppression and the strategic nature of the fight against it and the struggle to build the autonomous women’s movement in an anti-capitalist perspective, we must find the necessary resources to ensure that this question is developed as a central element of the anti-capitalist perspective we propose. In this framework we must at the same time strengthen our internal commission and be on the offensive in proposing discussions to our partners, including participation in seminars and schools in our Institute. This process must also find a reflection at national level.

At the same time we must ensure that the women in our organisations -- and in the new parties we are building -- find their full place and that the simple adoption of parity or quotas for leadership bodies or electoral lists is not considered a sufficient answer to the obstacles to women’s full participation in the political process. The range of measures constituting a postive action plan were presented in the 1991 World Congress resolution on positive action.

The youth camp which is held every year with around 500 comrades must have a central place for the youth work of our European sections, in the perspective of forming young internationalist cadres. As more and more of our organisations in Europe are within broader anti-capitalist formations we continue to encourage our comrades to invite youth from the broader organisations to the camp, and to participate in the preparatory seminar held in Amsterdam every Easter. The camp is also an important occasion for young comrades from Europe to meet comrades from other continents and the efforts made by organisations outside Europe to send comrades to participate in the camp is very important. As the only regular public initiaitive of the FI, the camp also plays a role as a place to which younger people from organisations with which we are building relations can be invited, as was the case with camp in Greece in 2009 with the presence of small delegations from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Croatia

The Amsterdam educational institute has taken on a fresh impetus. We now have to ensure that the schools and seminars are held and ensure the equilibrium of its management and its organisation. The FI must also open up its meetings and its institute. The institute occupies a central place, not only to educate the cadres of the section but also to contribute to the exchanges between currents and to various international experiences. The seminar on climate change open to a series of international experts is a good example. Like other meetings it indicates the necessity and the possibility that we are a crucible for programmatic elaboration of essential questions that anti-capitalist and revolutionary currents are tackling.

The existence of an international school in the Philippines is a tool of great importance to form new generations of revolutionary militants coming from all parts of Asia and to share their experiences. In the near future, there will be a new school in Islamabad in Pakistan which enlarge our capacity to form militants and organise political debates in South Asia. The FI has to give full support to the IIRE in Manila and in Islamabad.

Our schools have always been an occasion for inviting participation from organisations with which we are building relations. This role must be strengthened and broadened in the coming period throughout the IIRE network.

To sum up, in the coming period, and on an orientation aimed at building a new international force or a new international, the FI as an internal framework, represents an essential asset for revolutionary Marxists.

[This report was first published at the web site of International Viewpoint, magazine of the Fourth International. The report was presented to the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International, which was held in Belgium in February 2010.]

Comments

What Happened to North America?

Comrades all:

The glaring weakness in this document is the lack of any perspective for building mass anti-capitalist parties in North America. While I suppose this is a reflection of the weakness of the revolutionary left north of the Rio Grande, that is no excuse not to give some attention to the opportunities as well as the problems faced by NA revolutionists.

Despite the present weakness of the subjective factors, the objective situation presents opportunites not seen in decade as a result of the growing crisis, not only of imperialism, but of its political represenatives.

In the USA, the failure of the Obama administration to deliver any "change that we can believe in" is bringing about the disillusionment in the politicis of the Democratic party by the thousands of young activists who worked and supported him in his campaigns.

Similarily, the labour lieutenants of capital, whether in the AFoL-CIA or the CTW coalition, have very little credibility with anyone except their hired staff. The reformists of the social democrats and the Communist party have zero influence amongst the workers' mileu, which leaves the way open for the disemination of socialist propaganda and agitation, and more importantly, allows for the revolutionaries to engage in building actions which have the ability outflank the reformists and the capitalist allies.

In Canada, while the crisis is generally as not as severe economically as the USA, the orientation of the ruling class has been to launch attacks on the workers through selective cuts in services of the state, in an effort to weaken Canadians committment to health care and other basic programs, as a stept along the road to privation. The inability of the dominant sections of the capitalist class to impose their political projects in a coherent manner, as reflected in a succession of minority governments, plus a higher level of trade union organisation, has tended to buffer the workers from the worst set of attacks as witnessed south of the Canadian border.
In addition, the presence of the national question in the form of the ebbs and flows of the Quebequois(e) independence struggle, and the growing movements for change among the First Nations (indigenous) youth, add an other and richer source of social dynamics.

The lack of the subjective factor, a class conscious vanguard of working class militants, and the weakness strategically and politically of the revolutionary elements, combined with a sectarian attitude reinforced by the past years of relative class peace,have allowed North American imperialism a free hand in its drive to crush the global revolt against neo-liberalism and its attendant military strategies.

The Fourth International can begin to "make political forces of various origins converge" by starting with an in house conference of all North American organisations which claim its adherence, and in this I am including the Mexican comrades, to develop a strategic reference point with which to confront the beast within its own belly. The objective conditions for this call for unity is there, it takes some political will, courage and savvy to make it happen.

B L

(Bob Lyons was for 10 years an elected Member of the Saskatchewan (Canada) provincial Legislature, a trade union activist and a member and/or supporter of the Fourth International for more than 40 years.)

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