National Sections of the L5I:

World Political and Economic Perspectives of the League (2003)

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A - The world at a turning point

1. 1989-90 marked the triumph of the USA in the second cold war which reinforced the new phase of the imperialist epoch - globalisation. Neoliberal policies had been in operation for over a decade in the advanced capitalist countries and in some of the semi-colonial countries of the “Third World”. Henceforth they were to be unleashed on the entire planet.

2. This represented an attempt to overcome the structural crisis of overaccumulation gripping world capitalism since the 1970s. At first it appeared to have succeeded. Finance capital exerted a more global reach than ever before. Gigantic financial, commercial and industrial corporations emerged as more powerful than most governments. Shifts in production reshaped the working class more at a more dramatic rate than it did even during the immediate post-war decades. It removed barriers to imperialist exploitation of the “Third World”, leading to increased monopolisation, merger mania and cut-throat competition.

3. US supremacy was unchallenged, economically, militarily and politically. But at first it also benefited the other imperialist powers, via the economic institutions of global capitalism. The 1990s were an ascendant, “booming” phase of globalisation. But this boom could not in the end overcome the structural defects of world capitalism.

4. Whole continents became impoverished. By the end of the 1990s the US ruling class was coming to recognise that globalisation could not rest simply on greater economic exploitation of the semi-colonies and the former “Communist” countries where capitalism was being restored, via the IWF, the World Bank, the WTO. It needed a new political, military and diplomatic power to keep order and extend US supremacy to new regions, their natural resources and potential markets.

5. The end of the last century already saw the economic development of global capitalism reaching its limits. Most sectors of the world went into crisis and the US itself entered recession. The engine of feverish expansion stuttered to a halt. Global capitalism entered a period of economic stagnation.

6. A shift in US imperialism’s political course became imperative. The United States, aided by the UK, has launched a permanent state of war under the pretext of responding to September 11 and waging a “war against terror”. This war is an ideal cover for forcibly expanding its influence and spheres of interest in the middle east, central Asia, south and south-east Asia and even Latin America

7. If the US succeeds in seizing control of Iraq, other countries are already on its list: Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya. Here the establishment of “temporary” UN approved protectorates will make these countries virtually colonies of the USA and its European allies. In short, the “war against terrorism” is the military expression and continuation of globalisation “by other means”.

8. Most semi-colonial countries have lost most vestiges of the limited independence they enjoyed during the 1945-1989 period. Now there is no counterweight to the power of the US and the EU. They take their economic and social policy from the dictates of the IMF. More than ever before they are subordinated to imperialist - especially US - interests. Their rulers regularly consult the US state department on their internal affairs. In addition the USA and its allies aim to establish new military bases in strategic areas (e.g. Central Asia, Middle East, Columbia, Philippines/South-East Asia etc.) The imperialists will continue to create long-term protectorates, like Bosnia, Kosova, Afghanistan and, they hope, Iraq.

9. Massively rising military budgets for new high-tech weapons and “Rapid Reaction Forces” and more aggressive military doctrines will be central features of the new period. This will take place not only in the US, as dictated by the new “Bush doctrine”, but also in the EU and Japan.

10. The new warmongering is not only a strike against the semi-colonies, it is also a pre-emptive strike against the USA’s emerging rivals. These include not only imperialist powers like the EU but also states like semi-colonial China or the weak imperialist Russia. Military interventions, bullying, blackmail, wars for permanent stationing of imperialist troops and for control of strategic raw materials will occur repeatedly in the coming period.

11. But this diversion of resources to war takes place alongside the closure of enterprises, cuts in social services and “rationalisation” at home. This is a raising tide of resistance from the working class, youth, women workers, and other socially oppressed and marginalised layers. Therefore the ruling classes of the imperialist countries will be forced to strengthen the apparatus of repression, to increase social control, reduce democratic rights of political opponents and ethnic minorities.

12. This has already been seen with the Patriot Act, the use of the Taft-Hartley Act against the striking US longshore workers, the creation of the Homeland Security Department. In Europe Blair has rushed draconian laws to remove the civil rights of “terrorist suspects” and in Italy Berlusconi has launched wave after wave of repression against the anticapitalist movement over the last two years. In short the new period will be characterised by increasing repressive tendencies and the emergence of racist and right-wing forces.

13. The sheer dominance of US imperialism - half of the multinational companies and 40% of all military spending world-wide is US - has temporarily reduced open inter-imperialist rivalry. For the time being the EU and Japanese bourgeoisie are too weak to openly challenge their rival in Washington. They limit themselves to trying to slow down the offensive of US imperialism or to claiming a share of the plunder.

14. This is not only true for the strong European and Japanese imperialist powers but also for weak Russian capitalism, which tries to combine political-economic advances in its “Near Abroad” with replacing the Middle East as the central energy supplier for the EU and USA. Similarly the Chinese semi-colonial ruling class tries to focus on progressing capitalist restoration and avoiding a confrontation with the USA as long as possible.

15. Nevertheless”” despite the present hegemony of the USA, the coming decades will increase inter-imperialist rivalry. The US war against Iraq has caused serious frictions between the imperialist powers. The dominant EU powers - Germany and France - are starting to push harder for the formation of a strong imperialist bloc, which can challenge the US not only economically, but also politically and, ultimately, militarily.

16. However US imperialism’s strength, its global reach and interest, contains within itself the source of its weakness. It is increasingly forced to secure its dominance always and everywhere and, naturally, this creates opponents who are forced to limit its influence and rule. Even more important, its economic resources, its competitive advantages, are themselves doomed to decline.

17. This means that the US ruling class will not only continue to pursue an aggressive foreign policy. It will at the same time have to attack its own working class even more vigorously, aim to coerce and intimidate the anti-capitalist movement in the States and to defeat the vanguard sectors of the working class.

18. Likewise if Germany and France want challenge to the US they too will have to take on their own working classes. But they face labour movements which have a stronger social position than the Americans. We will probably see a serious campaign of attacks on workers’ rights, jobs and public services over the next years in the EU and Eastern Europe.

19. There will be a massive increase in legal and illegal immigration, driven by crisis in the Third World and the attraction of a European economy crying out for skilled productive and service workers. The consequence will be an important re-composition of the working class in the imperialist world, with a strategic sector of immigrants.

20. Growing racism by right wing forces and the state, growing social contradictions in society and the high level of education of many immigrants make it likely that immigrants will play an even more important role in future class struggles in Europe. The role of Muslims in the anti-war movement in Britain, the militant self-defence of Arab/Asian youth in Belgium and Britain are harbingers of future developments. The struggle for international working class unity and the fight against racism will therefore play a major role in the coming period.

21. Imperialism’s reactionary offensive has already provoked mass upheavals both in the imperialist world (anti-war movement, the European Social Forum, the class struggle in Italy, Greece, Spain) and the semi-colonial world (Argentina, Palestine).

22. The Middle East and Central Asia are the crucial geo-strategic areas in which the struggle for global dominance is waged. It is not accidental that almost all of Bush’s “rouge states” are in that part of the world. This also means that US allies in this region will try to take advantage of aggressive US policy to settle accounts with any opposition to their reactionary role. It will further unleash Israel’s war of terror against the Palestinians. Therefore the Middle East and Central Asia will be a central crisis spot of the next years.

23. The outcome of the war against Iraq, and other wars to follow, will massively influence the balance of class forces internationally and the relation between the imperialist powers. The international working class and all oppressed have to rally their forces to defeat US imperialism and any other power trying to further strengthen or impose its rule over the region.

24. In the Middle East there is a huge gap between the masses and their reactionary governments and leaders. The masses are cruelly oppressed and forced to fight - they have proved time and again that they are willing to resist imperialism. But they lack a political leadership that will represent their interests - there is a deep crisis of working class leadership. At the same time even the potential for resistance by their semi-colonial rulers and states is almost non-existent. They have become more subservient to imperialism then during the Cold War.

25. Globalisation means poverty, destruction and mass unrest in the semi-colonies. From the late 1990s the economies of East Asia and Latin America - many of them darlings of neo-liberalism and objects of massive imperialist exploitation - entered into crisis.

26. But the creation of strong working class movements and their alliance with peasant movements and the unemployed has stimulated mass resistance, up to revolutionary and pre-revolutionary crisis. This will continue. The struggles of Latin America - most notably Brazil and Argentina - will inspire and influence the world workers’ movement.

27. Most important, globalisation has brought into being an international mass movement, a dramatic re-composition of the working class and the workers movement. The share of immigrants has increased substantially. This trend will continue in the coming years, leading to an increasing importance of immigrants and antiracist struggles. It has awakened new sectors of the working class. It has developed a strong working class directly linked in international chains of production and distribution. Globalisation has itself created and stimulated forces able to overthrow global capitalism and replace it with socialism.

28. With the turn of the century, we have entered a new period. Globalisation - the latest phase of imperialism - has exhausted most of its economic dynamism. It has entered a period of stagnation. US imperialism will try to defend and increase its world dominance. It will try to deepen globalisation under its rule. But it will come up against its inner limits, against the rise of imperialist rivals and, most important of all, against a growing, dynamic workers’ resistance and anti-capitalist movement.

29. In short, we are entering a pre-revolutionary period. We are entering a period in which the international working class needs to prepare for the final overthrow of the system on a global scale, by rallying the forces necessary to lead the masses in a new world party - a new International.

B - Faultlines in the world economy

1. Deflation and debt menace the world capitalist economy. Japan is locked down by them while Germany and the United States are flirting with them. If entrenched in the next two years a prolonged recession or depression could set in.

2. Two prolonged booms in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a massive overaccumulation of capital (overcapacity and overproduction), which has led to falling prices and profits. This has been aided by a globally restrictive monetary policy by central banks to crush inflation.

3. The key to world capitalism’s prospects over the next year or two is the United States. It is the engine of global growth. Japan is in its third recession of a depressed decade. The engine of the EU - Germany - is stalled and the EU is saddled with a deflationary monetary policy that prevents a radical reflation of the economies to take over from the United States as the locomotive of the world economy in the next year or two.

4. Latin America (aside from Mexico and Chile) is in recession or outright collapse (Argentina). Most of East Asia (apart from South Korea, Indonesia and China) still suffer from the consequences of the collapse of high tech exports to the US. Africa is stable but has no weight in the world economy. So much depends on the course of events in the USA.

5. Overlaying the structural effects of the US 1990s boom are the consequences of a stock market bubble that has burst. The flight of capital from East Asia after the 1997 crash landed in the USA, there to inflate a huge, historic bubble in the stock market. US industrial profits peaked in 1998 and fell thereafter but asset prices soared into the stratosphere until March 2000 as mountains of cash were available for new investments in technology industries and to finance an unprecedented wave of corporate takeovers.

6. Although the market rationalised the bubble in equity prices to itself by reference to the existence of a “new economic paradigm” (i.e. higher and sustained levels of productivity), the sober truth took hold eventually as the gap between earnings and asset prices in the technology sector led to a stock market collapse in spring 2000 (20-40 per cent).

7. Six months later the effect of the loss of trillions of dollars of paper wealth fed through into a recession throughout the whole economy as investment collapsed. The recession in the US lasted throughout 2001 but was mild as corporate failure was hindered and consumer spending boosted by a series of immediate and effective interest rate cuts between March 2000 and October 2001, bringing them down to a 40-year low. In addition, there were huge company tax cuts and a big hike in defence spending.

8. These measures ensured a mild and short recession. Recovery was underway by Q2 2002 and Q3 GDP growth was 3.1 per cent on an annual basis as consumers spent and spent, rachetting up their debts. But as a result these measures did little to eliminate excess accumulation and hence low profits (at lows not seen since the 1930s). So after stabilising in 2001, the stock markets suffered another collapse (20 per cent) in March - September 2002, this time in companies across the whole economy - in turn prompting a further drastic cut in interest rates in November 2002. What then are the prospects for the year ahead?

9. Official growth forecasts for the US economy this year are around 2.1 per cent, a figure almost entirely due to growth in the auto and housing market. The November 2002 cut in interest rates was a last gasp attempt to sustain the consumer recovery in the face of a flagging stock market, increasing unemployment and mounting household debts.

10. But this alone cannot deepen the recovery or spread it to other sectors; business investment remains flat as profits are poor; there is little further scope for interest rate cuts (real rates are nearing zero); shifting the focus away from domestic demand to exports is hindered by the high dollar (necessary to attract the $1.2 bn of foreign capital a day to pay for the expanding current account deficit).

11. Any attempt to engineer a fall in the overvalued dollar to boost exports risks triggering a flight of foreign capital, which underpins the present (over high) price for US equities and the demand for government bonds. Such a rush from the dollar would lead to a further collapse of the stock market. It would be a further nail in the coffin of corporate profits and the consumer demand that is derived from drawing on stock market wealth. So at best a stuttering recovery lies ahead.

12. All the alternative scenarios are worse. Any growth below 3 per cent (the long run capacity of the economy at present levels of productivity) will ensure deflationary pressures continue. Now inflation is at a 40 year low (1.1 per cent) and prices have fallen in half the 16 categories of the consumer price index over the last 12 months - the highest number since records began.

13. Deflation will make the rising debts harder to service, forcing consumers to save more and thus take more demand out of the economy and forcing business to cut back investment. And the ratio between debt and GDP is much higher now than in the 1930s (even though finance capital is at a more developed stage today entailing a higher debt ratio).. Falling prices also make it impossible for the central banks to deliver negative real interest rates to help stricken consumers and firms since nominal rates cannot fall below zero. So rising debt and falling prices in the context of global excess capacity and low profits/investment is a lethal combination.

14. Letting the recession rip is the radical alternative for the bourgeoisie. And here the US political system and balance of class forces - unlike in Japan - makes this sharp destruction and devaluation of excess capital a genuine possibility if deflation threatened to take a grip on the US in the next year or so.

15. Naturally, this implies mass redundancies, closures, wage cuts and a deep recession to eliminate unprofitable lines of production and firms, restore the rate of exploitation, remove bad loans from the system and open the way to a new round of accumulation.

16. This must intensify the class struggle in the USA and would certainly tip the world economy into a synchronised recession. It must also have implications for the USA’s ability to sustain its hegemony over its imperialist rivals - even intensify that rivalry - and put a question mark over its ability to sustain its global military and political offensive ("war against terror").

17. A deep recession would probably negatively seal the fate of the Dohar round of trade talks, making the reduction of subsidies for EU and US farms and industry unlikely and hence agreement on further trade liberalisation measures by the semi-colonies impossible. In short, a process of deglobalisation would open up.

The semi-colonial world

18. The process of uneven and combined development runs through imperialism and is especially clear in the era of globalisation. We live on a planet of more than six billion people, citizens of 240 nation states. Yet a handful of countries control the main multilateral economic institutions and set the policy agenda. A couple of hundred companies and banks monopolise the bulk of global production, trade and finance. A few hundred million global consumers are all that “count” when it comes to buying goods and services. The vast majority of people, countries and enterprises are marginalised by imperialism.

19. This uneven concentration of wealth and property is the essence of imperialism. The stability and vast riches of the imperialist states is in no small measure a function of their exploitation of the resources and labour of the rest of the world. This exploitation is carried out by direct employment of low waged labour inside these countries, by extracting interest payments on debt and by exploiting unequal terms of trade.

20. The last decade up to and including 2000 has seen an
intensification of this uneven process under the impact of a major increase in the volume of foreign investment from the OECD countries, especially the G7, which has had the effect of increasing imperialist ownership of semi-colonial assets. The results on various regions of the

Third World can be summed up as follows:

21. • Continued marginalisation of sub-Saharan Africa. Accounts for less of global production than five years ago. It has a high export/GDP ratio, but this is merely the function of an intensive export-oriented model imposed on the continent sitting alongside an impoverished domestic market in which famine and epidemics prevail in large parts of the continent. Apart from emergency aid and debt relief programmes there is no capitalist development model for most of Africa.
Crisis and recession in Latin America.

22. Mexico (TNC production) and Chile (trade and finance) are inserted into the US economy and part of its business cycle. The rest is in crisis, recession or worse. This is a function of neo-liberal capitalism which has seen it privatise state assets, prioritise stable currencies and interest rates to attract foreign capital, seek to cut budget deficits and go for export oriented output to generate growth. It has simply led to the hollowing out of much of the region’s economy; domestic agriculture has been sacrificed. Meanwhile, its industries have been incapable of challenging those of the imperialists above them, while the LDCs below them have proven more attractive location for low wage assembly industries, oriented to re-export. Latin America will continue to be at the mercy of falling prices for basic raw materials and energy supplies.

23. • East Asia and China have been most transformed by imperialist capital over the last two decades. Spectacular growth in low wage, labour intensive industries urbanised society and created massive working classes out of peasants. The effect of the 1997 crash in East Asia was to increase their dependency upon imperialism for external finance and make their output even more dependent upon highly volatile technology markets in North America, Japan and Europe, while for the first time East Asia has taken on a lot of government debt. China remains the magnet for regional and global Foreign Direct Investment. It continues to expand rapidly and is the major source of new markets and investment opportunities for imperialism for the next two decades.

24. All semi-colonies are extremely vulnerable to “external shocks". This includes: the volatile demand in the North for the basic commodities of Latin America or semi-conductors of East Asia; the sudden flight of capital by “risk averse” speculators and fund managers in the North.

Complacency triumphant

25. Between the East Asia crash (1997) and the Enron scandal (2002) a process of soul-searching has taken place by the world’s economic elite: is something wrong with capitalism?

26. After all, we have seen a currency meltdown in Asia followed by deep regional recession, debt defaults from Russia to Argentina, stock market collapses, corporate scandals.

27. A Congressional commission in the US deliberated over a “new financial architecture” to forestall another East Asia crash. The chairman of the Federal Reserve pointed to “irrational exuberance” in the stock markets. The courts are presently taking a dim view of unethical if not illegal insider trading and accounting practices. Some have called for more shareholder control over remuneration of Chief Executives. Others demand a tax on short-term speculative capital movement.

28. But at the end of the day nothing fundamental has emerged from all this. The few institutional reforms being discussed (e.g., establish “early warning signs” so that the financial markets are more alert to looming currency meltdowns, give more weight to Third World inside the WTO, a new IMF bankruptcy procedure for debtor nations) will either fall by the wayside or make little difference. This is no surprise for what emerges above all from the periodic bouts of reflection by the great and the good is back-slapping and an air of self-congratulation.

29. The unanimous opinion of the reports this year from the World Bank, IMF, BIS and OECD is that despite recent shocks the global economy has proven “resilient". Keep on course. Yet this course will ensure future, deeper crises.

C - The working class and the anticapitalist movement

1. In the Manifesto of the Fifth Congress of the LFI, we registered the emergence of millions of activists “struggling on a thousand fronts” with an internationalist consciousness. We predicted that the “new internationalism” demonstrated at the 1999 protests in Seattle would grow rapidly. In the three years since then, this new movement has indeed taken enormous strides forward. While most of the established reformist parties have slavishly implemented the agenda set by big capital, and suffered the inevitable consequences of decay at their base, the forces of anti-capitalism have mobilised on a mass national and international scale.

2. In Melbourne, Prague, Nice, Mexico City, Cochabamba, Seoul, Quebec and Genoa and at many other places in the world, particularly in semi-colonies, this movement has challenged the globalisers and the privatisers head on. The working class has resorted to the general strike against class wide attacks: in India, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain and Italy. Furthermore, in North America as well as in western Europe, the movements recovered from the temporary blow dealt by 9/11 and the repressive hysteria which followed it, producing major anti-war mobilisations in New York, Washington and San Francisco and also in Rome, London and Florence.

3. The emergence of social forums and the meetings of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the European Social Forum in Florence, are events of historic importance. The latter marks the first real fusion, in a major imperialist country, of the working class and anti-capitalist movements for the fight against privatisation, poverty and insecurity, closures and war. It marked a return to mass political consciousness and action by a whole new generation of workers and young people and the start of a conscious response to the new period of wars and revolutions. The first beneficiaries of this leftward turn are the forces of left reformism and centrism, which are strengthening against the more rightwing and bureaucratic forces.

4. We reassert the decisive role of waged workers in the struggle against global capitalism and in its final overthrow. We recognise however that the working class has close comrades in the organised unemployed and allies among the landless peasants. But whilst rejecting the populist concept of the “multitude” and its political consequences, we also recognise the need to break down barriers both within the working class and with its plebeian allies. On the one hand social movements left under petty-bourgeois leadership will fall into impotent populism or even fall victim to reactionary demagogy; on the other workers organisations which do not reach out to the dispossessed or unorganised will suffer bureaucratic corruption, decay and defeat.

5. The new movement will not automatically move onward and upward. Various forms of reformist ideas and leaderships dominate both its more radical and conservative “wings”. It has to overcome the established reformist leaders, the ability of reformism to recreate itself, the appeal of populism etc. In short it faces a crisis of leadership.

6. In the 1990s, the working class grew rapidly in numbers and changed its composition and location. In sub-Saharan Africa, economic disaster forced millions out of waged work; in Asia, millions were pulled into the workforce up to 1997. Manufacturing jobs have been squeezed: after a period of recovery, the post 9/11 US slow down has seen a further shakeout. Restructuring, overcapacity, outsourcing etc has meant the continuing decline of giant workplaces.

7. There has been an increase in value producing services, increasing the proportion of women in the workforce. Employment in the maquiladoras and their equivalents continues to grow. Unprecedented numbers of migrant workers provide a cheap and super-exploited labour force in the imperialist countries. Young workers will continue to find themselves an essential part of today’s “reserve army”.

8. For millions, the reality is extremely insecure labour and a precarious existence as part of the vast army in the “informal” sector. Beyond those in “informal” employment is the vast army of the unemployed and truly impoverished.

9. Restructuring in both “old” and “new” technologies has brought sharp reminders that today’s labour aristocrats and moderately secure workers can find themselves tossed into a precarious existence very quickly (Fiat).

The Bosses’ Offensive

10. The second wave of social partnerships has come up against the world bourgeoisie’s insistence on privatisation, restructuring, etc. The bosses have demanded further restriction on social provision and workers’ rights (Article 18 in Italy). In the USA they used 9/11 to attack the 1990s revival of labour. In Latin America, trade unionism has been a life and death affair in countries like Colombia. The state backs up the bosses in SE Asia, resisting unionisation and social campaigns against sweatshops and child labour .

11. In imperialist countries, trade union densities were still falling overall up to 2001. Membership remains higher amongst older workers and in “older” sectors. But these gloomy figures mask a developing recovery and renewal. Even in a year of historically low strike figures in Europe in 2001, unions were drawn into action in defence of social provision (Austria). 2002 has seen several general strikes and public sector strikes across Europe. This has been accompanied by changes at leadership level (the “new” left leaders, dubbed the “Awkward Squad” in Britain) and the strengthening of the “alternative” unions (SUD in France and COBAS in Italy .)

12. The left in IG Metall was important in the Spring 2002 strikes. We expect to see the growth of further reform and rank and file organisations which we must build and initiate, arguing for our programme for the transformation of the unions rather than simply a new left reformist leadership. We will have to judge proposals for “alternative” unions as they arise, preserving the principles of maximum class and cross industry unity with the need to remove
sclerotic bureaucracies.

13. The trade unions have been forced to embrace change: sometimes in the form of (problematic) mergers. But they have also imported some of the methods of “social movement” unionism from the USA. Trade union leaderships in North America, Europe and Australasia will continue to pursue the “Organising Model” which attempts to inject some dynamism into recruitment and organisation without letting it skid out of control. We will utilise every opening and the facilities provided by the bureaucracy to organise the unorganised, campaign amongst young workers, run community campaigns, “mobile support committees” etc. and challenge bureaucratic control.

14. An essential task facing the workers movement is to reach youth, migrant and women workers. It must employ all the special methods of organisation, community mobilisation and political leadership learnt from past and current struggles, especially in the fight against oppression, including patriarchal relations in the family and wider issues of social justice.

15. Globalisation has ensured a growth in internationalism. Unions in the NAFTA countries mobilised for Quebec. 9/11 knocked back but did not wipe out this tendency in the USA. A combination of student and worker mobilisation (USAS, UNITE) has played a key role in internationalising the struggles in the garment trade.

16. On the negative side, we have to register the problems in the auto industry where despite internationalist rhetoric, the bureaucracies have been happy to sink back into national centred defence of jobs. Rank and file international links are essential to overcome this and the anticapitalist movement and Social Forums provide the arena for this to develop; in the last analysis only revolutionary international leadership can ensure lasting international solidarity.

17. Worldwide the most significant fightbacks have occurred where there is either “social movement unionism” or interpenetration of the anticapitalist and workers’ movement. These include areas as diverse as Italy, where both COBAS and the CGIL led general strikes and have been drawn into social forums (see below); the US, where “living wage” campaigns have followed on from “Justice for Janitors”; the Latin American anti-privatisation campaigns and the global fightback in textiles. But at present examples like Kukdong are beacons rather than typical occurrences. They have to be generalised by the workers’ movement. Consumer focused campaigns face inevitable limitations. The less organised and most vulnerable must demand support from the best organised and more secure.

18. The bosses’ offensive has been met with class wide responses - the political general strike. These protest strikes play an important role in galvanising the whole class and placing it at the centre of resistance. It is essential to take the opportunity given by even one day general strikes to raise the need for action councils, soviet type bodies, transforming social forums etc. and to remember that extended general strikes pose the question of “Who Rules?”

19. Popular assemblies, notably in Argentina, have drawn in the unemployed, workers in the “informal” sector and the middle class. These semi-spontaneous forms of organisation will appear in crises (c.f. South Africa). Unemployed workers’ organisations have become increasingly militant (south Asia). They must reach out to win the support of and dynamise the existing trade unions.

20. Social democracy cannot offer a perspective of significant social reform and is suffering the consequences (Britain, France, Germany). We expect splits, new parties on the left, further conflict between workers’ organisations and the parties. (But, in the US, the unions campaigned for Gore and the left mostly for Nader. The pressure to unite around the Democrats in the face of a rightwing Bush government
may be overwhelming).

21. Radical bourgeois parties in the semi-colonies have beaten a retreat in the face of neo-liberalist demands. In South Africa, the ANC has continued privatisation etc. The Peronist parties have to varying degrees carried out the dictates of the international bankers, but still retain links with the working class through the support of the trade union leaders. These experiences will increase the pressure on working class leaders (SACP, Zimbabwean union leaders) to break from the bourgeois parties.

22. But these new workers parties, whether emerging from bourgeois or old workers’ parties, face aggressive imperialism. Even the Brazilian PT, with real roots and mass support, has retreated in the face of the IMF’s demands. It will have a short honeymoon period. The Zimbabwean MDC was not even allowed to become a workers’ party.

23. Left reformism has confirmed its endless capacity for reinvention especially where the anticapitalist movement has provided an alternative ideological pull and the pressure of a mass movement. This has occurred especially out of the left of Stalinism, with Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista having 100,000 members, 8-9% opinion poll support and moving left (see below). Events in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference confirm this.

24. The anti-capitalist movement is a direct result of globalisation. It remains, however, a cross-class alliance both in the imperialist heartlands and, even more so, in the semi-colonial countries. But it is an alliance with the radical petit-bourgeoisie and, as Florence showed, one in which the working class can win leadership.

25. In the USA, 9/11 drove the AFL-CIO away from the anticapitalist movement. The anticapitalist movement did manage to bring 20,000 protesters to the WEF summit in New York, January 2002, although 11,000 cops ensured they had no repeat of Seattle. Few unions (Unite, Canadian steelworkers) turned up. However, the burgeoning anti-war movement has begun to change this. Social forums have emerged in some major cities ”” Washington being the most active ”” though they do not appear to have drawn in the unions.

26. In Latin America, the anticapitalist movement has grown significantly in the past three years. The movement scored impressive victories in Cochabamba, Bolivia and Cali, Columbia against water privatisation ”” both with trade unions playing a decisive role through general strikes and occupations ”” against a background of severe repression, including several shot dead. In Argentina, a plethora of small anarchist and libertarian groups participated in the revolutionary days and actively promoted the popular assembly strategy, but have no solution to the impasse into which the revolution has been drawn.

27. In Brazil, the movement has, on the one hand, been incorporated by the PT into the ‘participatory budget’ strategy (which is now being promoted by the World Bank!) while, on the other hand, the MST and sections of the CUT guard their independence from the PT and Lula. While popular assemblies and encuentros remain the spontaneous forums for the movement, social forums are beginning to emerge (the recent one in Colombia was broken up by the police).

28. In Europe, Italy is at the forefront of the movement. The election of Berlusconi, Fini and Bossi, the attacks on workers’ gains, the post Genoa repression all produced an explosive cocktail. After Genoa, 70 or more social forums sprang up in cities, towns and villages along the peninsula. They are most vibrant in smaller towns. Their participants run from Catholic associations, through reformist parties, DS and RC, to unions (FIOM and CoBas in particular) and the youth, disobedienti, antagonistas, etc.

29. Spain and Greece have seen a similar set of local conditions (rightist governments and faltering economies) and similarly social forums have linked up with mass working class forces in social forums and ad hoc alliances (e.g. Seville).

30. However, in northern Europe the movement has stagnated to
some degree. This is likely to change as Chirac, Schroeder (who has already revoked his anti-war stance) and Blair embark on more openly neo-liberal programmes, the unions start to take protest action and the world economic slowdown hits the major European economies. In Britain and France there is strong native opposition to the social forum model ”” however, this will not immunise these countries from their development if the trends shown above materialise.

31. In Eastern Europe, the anticapitalist movement barely numbers more than a few thousands in any one country. However, the international movement is an important source of support for a vanguard of activists who are anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist.

32. In Africa, the anticapitalist movement is largely confined to South Africa and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabwe. The campaign against water and electricity privatisation in Soweto drew the full repression of the state, as did the counter-demonstration at the World Summit for Sustainable Development. The Durban Social Forum played an important role in uniting unions, ex-ANC activists and community-based groups. Clearly, however, the SACP has not taken the Rifondazione line on the anticapitalist movement! The anticapitalist movement may in these conditions play an important role in levering Cosatu out of the government and even in a renewed call for a mass workers’ party.

33. In the Middle East, the anticapitalist movement has held conferences and protests in Israel and Palestine under incredibly adverse conditions. Their very existence and the calling of the Middle East Social Forum in Ramallah in December 2002 is testimony to the worldwide reach of the movement.

34. Repression: The imperialist bourgeoisie has responded to the threat posed by the anticapitalist movement in the following ways:

35. They have curtailed civil liberties, the right to protest and to organise. Surveillance, pre-emptive raids and arrests, tear gas, baton charges and live ammunition, torture and long custodial sentences have been used to frighten off demonstrators and encourage splits. This pre-dates 9/11 and was an agreed international policy by May Day 2001, with the first shoot-to-kill policy occurring in Gothenburg in June.

36. They have removed many of their summits to inaccessible venues to avoid clashes with protesters: Doha (WTO), somewhere up the Rockies (G8).

37. They have continued the ideological offensive against the movement and post-9/11 linked it to terrorism, support for Saddam Hussein on the one hand, while courting the movement’s right wing ”” support for participatory budgets, accepting that the IMF should include social criteria. Again, divide and rule.

38. In response the anticapitalist movement has tended to turn its attention to building local, national and even regional (i.e. continental) alliances and movements. This new turn has been marked most pronouncedly by the incorporation of workers’ organisations, particularly unions, and by the launching of real mass struggles ”” against privatisation of utilities, repression, war and anti-labour laws. This maturing of the movement has been combined and uneven.

39. The flowering of the anticapitalist movement marks the opening of a new pre-revolutionary period. Imperialism will continue to provide the basis for its growth. Compared with the 1968-75 period, the anticapitalist movement is a more spontaneous, more international, even more unified phenomenon than anything that appeared then. The collapse of Stalinism and the ideological and material defeat suffered by social democracy and their working class base in the 1990s has meant that this period has not opened up with a spontaneous mass call for a new international, though anti-party sentiments appear to be waning. It also means that no reformist or nationalist party has been able to stifle the movement.

40. The right wing of the anticapitalist movement (ATTAC, the NGOs) found itself marginalised in Florence. But it will retain influence especially if it is allowed to build its alliance with the trade union bureaucracy. It remains a barrier to the revolutionary transformation of the movement given the current structures of the anticapitalist movement and the refusal of the left forces to provide a direct challenge. Already ATTAC is plotting to ensure that the next ESF (Paris, November 2003) is more tightly policed and not overrun by the youth and the far left.

41. Although the anticapitalist movement does not have universal hallmarks for its form and tends to adapt to national conditions (encuentros in Bolivia, social forums in Italy), over the last 12 months the social forum has become an international model. This is particularly the case where the trade unions are involved, because they need to be sure of influence, more transparent decision making, that their specific weight is not dissolved into the popular masses etc. This development of the social forums is a qualitative advance.

42. The forms of organisation and participation of the anticapitalist movement are found wanting once mass action and working class involvement is on the agenda. Workers have limited time for debate. Ruling class attacks require a decisive response. The mass movement needs to be able to debate and choose between contending ideas and proposals. At the moment the Social Forums combine populist democratism with behind the scenes bureaucratic practices. We should oppose the right to veto, even if this initially takes the form of calling on those not willing to join a specific action not to block the others. We should fight to overturn the ban on parties since this both allows the leaders of mass reformist parties to hide their influence and hinders the workers and youth from identifying and judging the different parties’ programmes. In short we fight for the norms of workers’ democracy.

43. We should actively build the movement recognising that it is not uniform, that it is more developed in some countries than others, that regional, national and local terrains pose different tasks and different forms. We should fight to generalise from the examples set by the more developed anticapitalist movements ”” for strikes and occupations, for mass demonstrations and direct action, for legal and illegal actions, for social forums and delegates from the mass organisations of struggle. We fight to make the developing Social Forums real centres of struggle.

44. We will fight to build a strong revolutionary left wing inside the movement. This will put us in a favourable position, as the accelerating contradictions of capitalism and a rising class struggle lead to the reformists sabotaging or splitting the movement and the centrists wavering and capitulating to them. Only the strongest possible revolutionary wing can increase the chances for the building of a new revolutionary International.

D - The fight for a New International today

1. The globalisation of capital, the neoliberal offensive of the global financial institutions and governments, and the rising intercontinental tide of popular resistance present the working class, anticapitalist and popular movements of the world with an unparalleled opportunity to create a new International, a truly global party of social revolution.

2. Important elements of a new mass international are taking shape. This process was expressed first in the wave of co-ordinated international protests against capitalist globalisation. It assumed mass and proletarian form in vast marches against imperialist war. And it achieved a political expression in the Social Forum in Florence, the largest and most extensive assembly of international working class and anticapitalist movements since the 1920s, in a wave of international solidarity with the Palestinian people, and in a worldwide explosion of anger against US imperialism. The call for demonstrations around 15th February 2003 issued by the first ESF conference led to an unprecedented co-ordination of world wide protest against war with Iraq; 10-15 million rallied to the streets against the imperialist drive to war.

3. Since its foundation in 1989, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International fought for the foundation of a new world party of social revolution as its first and highest aim. For a decade this seemed to many in the workers’ movement to be a goal far distant from the realities of everyday struggles, which were restricted to the local and national terrain. Our primary slogan seemed ‘too abstract’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘premature’ or even ‘utopian’.

4. But mighty events have proved us right - quicker than we dared imagine. The era of Bush and bin Laden, of Seattle and Genoa, of Porto Alegre and Florence has rendered nationally bounded analyses, programmes, projects and parties hopelessly out-of-date.

5. To co-ordinate the most basic defence of workers’ interests against privatisation today means to challenge multinational employers or the dictates of global neoliberal institutions. A decade long war looms in which the sole superpower will blast and bomb the globe to subject us to its will. To contend for power in one country means to challenge the global power of this imperialist system, the USA and its allies and agents.

6. In response parts of the workers’ and popular movements are forming new international coalitions of militant struggle. The question of the foundation of a new International has become a simple agitational slogan that can be easily understood and receive a sympathetic hearing in every struggle of workers, peasants, the urban poor and the revolutionary youth.

7. The League for the Fifth International will redouble its efforts in all the forums of the anti-capitalist and labour movements to get each and every organisation to declare for the formation of a new world party of social revolution ”” a Fifth International.

8. Why do we call the new international the Fifth International? For the simple reason that it is true. The new International will be the fifth time that the anticapitalist workers have formed a world party.

9. If a young worker asks ’why the Fifth International’, we reply: “In the history of the working class there have been four Internationals, world parties of social revolution. Each played a vital role. Each represented a step forward in differing ways. But each has been destroyed. Half a century has elapsed since the Fourth International splintered into warring sects. Globalisation and the war on terrorism make it a burning task to build another, the Fifth International, to take forward the struggle against global capitalism."

10. We need to explain not only the defeats of the preceding Internationals but crucially their positive lessons for today. Our aim is not to mechanically copy one or another of them. In each international there existed the seeds of its own destruction as well as its permanent contribution to the workers movement.

11. Therefore despite the heterogeneous forces that make up the world workers’ and anticapitalist movement today, we do not argue for the Fifth International to be on the model of “the First International rather than the Third”. This would be to glorify the political and organisational weakness, confusion and primitiveness of the International Working Men’s Association. But equally we should not regard the progression of the Internationals as a sort of Darwinian evolution whereby the Fourth was in every respect a higher form than the Third and therefore must be copied in all its details. It never became a mass workers’ international, like the other three, due to the isolation imposed on it by Stalinism.

12. The Fifth International must be the re-emergence at a higher level of ALL four preceding Internationals. A common feature of the fight for and the initial building of the three mass Internationals (and even in a curtailed way in Trotsky’s struggle for the Fourth) is the attempt to draw all mass forces, seriously moving to the left, towards the task of founding the new International. The aim is not to split the difference with reformism or to “build a centrist International” but to win the mass forces”” many presently still reformist or centrist”” to a revolutionary programme whilst engaging in common action around the key issues facing the world working class movement at that particular period/conjuncture.
13. The First International achieved a strategic victory for Marxism over all types of petit bourgeois socialism and rooted the Marxist programme and theory in a generation of mass workers parties.

14. The Second International partly took up and completed this work through the formation and building of mass workers’ parties on directly Marxist principles. Those countries that failed to form or were late in forming mass workers parties on the Marxist model (especially in the US and the British Empire) have had an unbrokenly opportunist labour movement in which the forces of revolution have remained much smaller and isolated. The mass character of the parties of the Second International created a basis from which revolutionary forces could emerge to challenge their opportunist leaders once they went over to imperialism in the period following 1914.

15. The Third International rallied the revolutionary forces around the victory of the Russian Revolution and a programme for world revolution. It never completed its programmatic or organisational development, yet again its early years drew in heterogeneous but militant elements - with masses of working class fighters. In these conditions Marxism made big strides forward both in its mass influence and in its own development.

16. Trotsky clearly hoped for such a development of the Fourth International after 1933 but the defeats imposed by Stalinism and its terror against the revolutionary vanguard forced the FI to be declared on the eve of the Second Imperialist War when it was still an International of propaganda groups rather than parties. This contingent fact does not make it a model for the next International. Quite the reverse!

17. The failure of Trotsky’s followers to succeed in getting beyond a “propaganda group international”, added to the increasingly farcical posturing and spectacular failures of the post-1953 epigones, cannot be taken a template.

18. At the moment we stand nearer to the conditions and tasks Marx faced at the beginning of the First than to those of Trotsky in 1938. Heterogeneous forces exist, groping their way towards a new internationalism, if not a new International. Where the centrist advocates of the model of the First International are wrong is to advocate wholesale political and organisational concessions to the very forces Marx had to fight within the International, a headlong retreat away from the priceless lessons learned by the Third and Fourth Internationals - the need for a revolutionary transitional programme and international democratic centralism.

19. The new International must be a progression ”” it comes after and thus preserves and recapitulates all the enduring, historic lessons and gains of the others including the Fourth. We have to fight from the outset for Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism””for all the lessons of the past 150 years. But we have to remember that we are addressing a new generation of fighters, the best of whom may know little or nothing of these gains or struggles. As Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky did, we make the call for the new International to all fighting militant forces and organisations.

20. The radicalisation of the youth around the world and the
predominant role of the youth in the anticapitalist movement, the resistance struggles of oppressed nations and, increasingly, in the workplaces, makes the question of a Youth International once again a burning necessity. Already the LFI has succeeded in creating youth organisations bigger than the League itself - even attracting to it young activists in countries where we have no sections. This is a development of cardinal importance, proof of the vanguard role that youth have always played in the creation of new revolutionary Internationals, most notably in the way the youth sections of the Second blazed the trail for the creation of the Third. We should therefore complement the call for a new international with a call for a new revolutionary youth international.

21. It will take mighty struggles, both in the international class struggle and against the reformist leadership of the WSF/anti-globalisation movement (and their centrist allies), to bring together forces able to found a new mass International. Given the tiny forces adhering to revolutionary Marxism, Trotskyism, a new International founded in the near future is unlikely to have a purely Marxist character. Like the First and the Second Internationals, revolutionary Marxists will have to fight both before and after its formation to win the workers and youth to a revolutionary international programme. Only by winning over and absorbing the best and most revolutionary elements of the anti-capitalist and workers movement, and by defeating and purging the die hard reformist, centrist and anarchist elements will a new revolutionary communist international will be forged.

22. What are the tasks the embryonic International must start with in today’s conditions? It must promote, co-ordinate and unite a movement of social forums in every city, every country and every continent - democratic, open assemblies of workers and popular delegates to co-ordinate the struggle against global capitalism.

23. It must be a political force that aims to lead the mass movement - which means not to compel but to persuade the masses of the need to take state power into their own hands in a social uprising against the power of the capitalist state. It must commit itself to smashing that state and replacing it with organs of direct democracy by the working people of town and country.

24. It must be a working class party, the most militant and organised part of the global working class, the part that seeks always to express the fundamental global interests of the workers and the poor and which fights indefatigably for them. It must seek to form working class governments deriving their authority from democratic organs of the working class and dependent solely on those organs for their legitimacy and their defence.

25. Within the International the differences of strategy, tactics and organisational principles that exist within the global workers’ and anti-capitalist movement must be debated out and deliberated upon in an unrestricted exercise of the fullest working class democracy. Operating on the basis of ‘consensus’ cannot provide a consistent expression of this democracy - it can only defraud the will of the majority and render the movement incapable of effective action. In place of open debate and voting (democracy), ‘consensus’ substitutes negotiation between cliques, lumbering the movement with incoherent compromise in place of decisive action.

26. Against this the LFI will fight for real democratic centralism within the new International. This means opposing not just consensus decision-making but also any hint of the bureaucratic control or of domination by the representatives of one country or organisation - this bureaucratic centralism destroyed the Third (Communist) International in the 1920s and defamed the very notion of international democratic centralism for eight decades.

27. And yet the task of the day - to co-ordinate global action against imperialism - makes a centralised structure indispensable. Just as a trade union cannot pursue a ‘decentralised’ strike, and an oppressed nation cannot mount ‘decentralised’ resistance to military occupation, so the new International will need a centralised structure. Only in this way can we co-ordinate the necessary scale of action to stop the USA’s war on Iraq, to break the hold of the multinational corporations, to abolish the IMF and WTO, to deliver solidarity with the Palestinian and Chechen people, to block the companies and governments that exacerbate global warming.

28. This centralism holds no terrors for the militant workers - we are already familiar with its principles from every strike and every mass movement. As with a simple strike picket, this workers’ centralism will require that minorities within the organisation agree to carry out actions decided upon by the majority. But must centralised action presuppose bureaucracy and anti-democratic control? If so, the global class struggle is doomed to defeat. The new International will disprove this council of despair in practice

29. In campaigning for the formation of the Fifth International, the LFI will show the greatest patience towards the members of the mass organisations, remembering always to call on their leaders to act and thereby to prove their weaknesses and errors in practice, not just by denouncing them from the sidelines. The workers and youth must understand that what the LFI proposes is indispensable for the further advance of their interests. Therefore we will not demand that the mass organisations within the ESF and allied international forums must first ditch the left reformist and post-Stalinist leaders before they can form a new International. By calling for a united front from above and below, we will take our place within the movement and assist the rank and file to understand the character of their misleaders through their own experience.

Centrism and the Fifth International

30. At the same time, we will vigorously combat the ideas, ideologies and programmes of the existing leaders. And we must fight the influence of all those smaller far left and right-centrist groupings which in practice obstruct both the foundation of the International and its adoption of a revolutionary programme. The question of the foundation of a new International is not a matter for mere contemplation by the small propaganda societies of the far left but for the action of millions of workers and youth. The slogan is therefore aimed not at a new cycle of negotiations, redivision and reformation, regroupment and realignment of the existing groups, grouplets and groupuscules, but at the mass organisations.

31. On the far left of the movement are the main international formations of centrism - the unstable phenomenon that vacillates between revolutionary words and reformist deeds. Three of the major centrist trends swears by the need for a new International - but of course, not now. In practice, they strain every sinew to obstruct its development.

32. The International Socialist Tendency, dominated by the Socialist Workers Party of Britain, plays an influential role in the European Social Forum, yet it resists the idea that social forums be founded in every city and that the ESF declare for a new International. The IST argues for revolution, but refuses to criticise the real expressions of reformism within the ESF. While it rejects the ‘parliamentary road to socialism’, it stands in elections on a reformist rather than revolutionary programme. For the IST the new International is something that ‘emerges’ in the far future, not a concrete slogan of the day.

33. The second of the major centrist organisations is the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Having long ago abandoned the revolutionary intransigence of the Fourth International itself, the USFI everywhere seeks to build new reformist parties. In place of open ideological struggle, the USFI believes that the most right wing, most reformist groupings within the ESF should be shielded from criticism, holding out instead the antihistorical notion that they will inevitably evolve to the left, so long as unity is not disrupted.

34. Smaller than the IST and USFI is the Committee for a Workers International. The CWI presents to the working class a deadly illusion - that it is possible to effect a socialist transformation of society by peaceful parliamentary means. At the same time it adapts to the pro-imperialist consciousness of many workers in the advanced democracies by refusing to solidarise with the legitimate anti-imperialist struggles of oppressed nations like the Irish, and resists the just demands of the Palestinians to self-determination by upholding the continued existence of the racist state of Israel.

35. The influence of these tendencies must be supplanted if the new International is to be founded and won to a consistently anti-imperialist and revolutionary policy. The LFI will work with the militants of these organisations wherever possible, whilst never ceasing to struggle against their ideas and to win honest militants away from their ranks.

The LFI’s immediate tasks

36. On the extreme left of international centrism stands the Fraccion Trotskista and its largest section, the Argentine PTS. This organisation supports key elements of revolutionary strategy, but fails to render them consistent. In particular it resists the creation of a democratic centralist international organisation, and rejects the consistent application of united front tactics towards mass working class organisations. Under these conditions its initiatives for the ‘regroupment’ of far left tendencies will not become a step forward in building a revolutionary international, but can amount to a conciliation of centrist currents to its right.

37. The LFI will continue patiently to address the PTS and the FT, to persuade it to break from the remaining elements of centrism in its method, to agree on joint international actions and declarations and to create a Liaison Committee in order that these differences can be debated out through a formal structure. But we will resist the creation of an international structure which might serve the FT merely to demonstrate a wider range of international links than it currently has, at the same time as ‘agreeing to differ’ or, worse still, obscuring important differences.

38. Building on the achievements of successive international REVO camps, the joint work of the REVOLUTION groups in Prague, Gothenburg, Genoa and Florence, we will promote the establishment of the firmest links between REVOLUTION youth groups across the world, the foundation of World REVOLUTION on an agreed revolutionary programme and the election by its members of its own international leadership. Through the action within its ranks of disciplined communist cadres we will seek to persuade it to follow a revolutionary path, utilise flexible tactics, and fight for our programme.

39. The struggle for a new International necessitates an active attempt to find allies among those forces who break away from reformism, centrism or anarchism. It necessitates the formation of blocs with the goal of common practical initiatives and clarification of programmatic differences similar as revolutionary Marxists did with the Bloc of 4 or similar initiatives.”

40. We will aim to convince it to adopt the slogan for the Fifth International and to work towards the foundation of a Mass Revolutionary Youth International. In this way World REVOLUTION can and must become a key instrument in rallying forces around the globe for the Fifth International.

41. Instead of adopting bland, evasive, slogans we raise the demand for the Fifth International, addressed to the masses of fighting workers and youth. To express this aim we change the name of the LFI to League for the Fifth International. All our publications and symbols will carry the slogan: for the Fifth International.

42. The League for the Fifth International will immediately commence the struggle to commit working class and anticapitalist organisations to declare for the founding of a Fifth International. We will prepare a resolution to this effect and promote it in the run up to the ESF in Paris 2003. We will strive to do the same in every similar international forum in other continents, the Asia-Pacific, American and other forums. We will publish our programme under the title “For the Fifth International: Manifesto for a new World Party of Social Revolution."