The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Combativity of the Masses and Revolutionary Leadership

Oct 13, 2022

Faced with a crisis of the capitalist system that has prolonged and deepened, workers and the popular classes around the world have reacted in recent years, including in real social explosions.

Without going further back in time, there were the so-called “Arab Spring” movements of 2010—2011. Born out of deep social discontent, they led to the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, with the hope that this political change would lead to progress in living conditions. We know how much these hopes were disappointed: in a few years an even harsher dictatorship returned in Egypt and the Tunisian regime evolved in the same direction, while the situation of the popular masses has worsened. But the whole region was affected by the contagion: movements occurred in Libya, Syria, Yemen and even in the Emirates, leading to military interventions and wars.

In 2019, Algeria experienced the so-called “Hirak” movement, with several months of massive weekly popular protests. Based on deep social discontent, the political objective “regime, get out” was unanimously supported for months before the government managed to regain the upper hand. Although the movement has finally subsided, social demands continue to be expressed.

A popular movement also shook Sudan, especially since 2019, and is far from being extinguished. Starting at the end of 2018 from a protest against the increase in bread prices, it obtained the fall of the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, who was supported by the army and an Islamist party. The army’s bloody repression of June 3, 2019 did not succeed in breaking the mass movement. The protests continued despite the repression, around democratic demands formulated by a petty-bourgeois leadership, represented by the Sudanese Professionals Association.

In the same region of the world, Lebanon and Iraq have seen significant popular mobilizations, especially since 2019. Palestinian Arabs in the Israeli-occupied territories, but also in Israel itself, continue to demonstrate frequently against the regime imposed on them. But it is especially worth mentioning Iran, where there have been successive outbreaks of revolt, in 2017—2018, again in 2019, with many episodes of workers’ struggles going on at the same time. And the country is, in this autumn of 2022, the site of a vast explosion of anger following the murder of a young girl by the religious police who reproached her for wearing her veil badly. Beyond the problem of the situation of women, on whom this police force, wanting to impose its moral order, doesn’t hesitate to resort to violence, it is the dictatorship of the Islamic republic itself that is being called into question.

The reactions of the masses were not limited to the Middle East. Sri Lanka was the scene this spring and summer of a widespread revolt; India, of a large peasant mobilization against the policies of the Modi government. Chile saw a real social explosion in 2019, starting from a protest against the increase in transport prices. In Burma (Myanmar), the February 2021 coup d’état led to a massive reaction, implicating the working class particularly.

In Kazakhstan, the year 2022 began with a social explosion against the increase in prices for energy, with the workers in the oil and gas industries taking the lead of the struggle. The movement engaged all the industrial and urban centers, pulling large layers of the population into a struggle against the dictatorship. The movement, largely spontaneous, remained without any leadership other than that of a few politicians calling for democracy and some more or less radical trade union leaders who remained on a reformist platform. Even at its height, when the power could not control the big cities, no force stepped forward which opened the perspective for the working class—numerous, combative and concentrated—of overthrowing the regime and establishing its own power. The working class thus found itself disarmed—more politically than materially—when Putin sent in troops to subdue the movement, in order to preserve the interests of the local bureaucracy and of the Russian bureaucracy, as well as those of the big Western oil and mining groups present in the country.

The events of Kazakhstan repeated what had happened in Belorussia in 2020. A numerically and economically powerful working class initiated and was the center of a vast and long movement contesting the regime, setting off echoes among the workers in the neighboring countries. But, without a revolutionary political leadership, that is, without perspectives, the movement ended up wearing itself out.

What is lacking is not the fighting spirit of the masses. From one country to another, from one situation to another, in the face of conditions that often become untenable, they react with the means they find, which range from trade union struggles and strikes to demonstrations and confrontations with the forces of repression. However, despite this combativity, the objectives put forward during these struggles never went beyond democratic and social demands that do not call into question either the capitalist system or the imperialist order.

The leaderships that emerged at the head of these movements have been very different. In Sudan, we can find an Islamist party cohabiting with a communist party of the Stalinist tradition that has abandoned all perspective for independent politics of the working class. In Haiti, we can even see armed gang leaders trying to take the lead in challenging political power. In any case, these were not revolutionary leaderships, but rather petty-bourgeois, reformist and/or nationalist leaderships, when they were not religious ones, stopping at the threshold of private property. None of them considered leaving the framework of the bourgeois system, nor the framework of the existing national states and the division of the world imposed by imperialism. This is what marks the limit of these movements, but also what explains why they most often quickly reach a dead end: decadent capitalism cannot accept either to concede real social progress, nor even to soften a system of domination for which the maintenance of dictatorships or authoritarian governments is essential.

So, what is missing is a world revolutionary party, proletarian and communist, the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat that the Bolsheviks wanted to found by creating the Communist International. No matter how combative the masses are, this leadership cannot emerge spontaneously in the course of their struggles. To put an end to the imperialist system, which is the mode of domination of finance capital, requires the destruction of the bourgeoisie, with the states that serve it and the artificial borders that they maintain between peoples. This requires a policy going in this direction and this can be the work only of the international proletariat, if it arms itself with a program that has learned from all its past experiences.

To emphasize this, is to affirm the need to build and implant revolutionary parties in the working class based on the Trotskyist program, and an International that is truly the world party of revolution.