The Spark

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

The Barbarism of Imperialism:
A Breeding Ground for All Forms of Barbarism

Dec 31, 2014

The following article was translated and excerpted from the December 2014 Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle), the political journal of Lutte Ouvière, the revolutionary workers organization in France.

The continuing international economic crisis has exacerbated competition everywhere between capitalists, as well as aggravated inequalities, driven down living conditions of the exploited masses, and rendered international relations more strained and chaotic. The imperialistic order, which is being violently challenged in many regions of the world, gives off a strong odor of decay.

The leaders in the big imperialist countries maintain a climate of war with the help of the media. They began to put this in place after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. In the official phraseology, terrorism, especially terrorism propagated by Islamic fundamentalists, has gradually taken the place of the ex-Soviet Union as the principal threat to world peace.

The proliferation of armed groups, from the Taliban in Afghanistan to al Qaeda, from the north of the African continent to Nigeria, from Cameroun to some regions of South-East Asia, reinforces this phraseology.

Imperialism and its Offshoots Threaten the World’s Peoples

The Islamic State group (Daesh) emerged from the decomposition of the Iraqi state and the weakening of the Syrian state and it benefits from financial support, that is hardly hidden, of a few longtime allies of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf Emirates. The group’s conquest of a territorial base has provided the imperialist powers with the opportunity to set up a coalition in order to fight it, and to intervene with their air forces.

It is both unsound and self-serving to present the Islamic State group as a threat to global peace. But the regional war that is being waged on the SyrianIraqi border is a genuine war, and those who are killed and wounded are victims of both the West’s bombs and the violence of the Islamic State, with its share of massacres and destruction, and waves of refugees.

The imperialist countries’ coalition and the “Islamic State” have the same contempt for peoples. For the West to pretend that bombing territory conquered by the Islamic State is “targeted” is a lie that is as cynical as the arguments put forward by Israel to justify its bombing of the Gaza Strip.

Imperialist powers tolerate no opposition to their rule, although they know how to use, manipulate and even provoke armed gangs or terrorist groups when it serves their purposes. However, once armed gangs are put in place, they take on a life of their own, with their own internal logic. As so often before, watch dogs can turn on their masters, who will sometimes retaliate. This is exactly what happened in Afghanistan when the U.S. manipulated Islamic warlords against the Soviet army, which occupied the country at the time. At a different level, the U.S. used Saddam Hussein, when he attacked Khomeini’s Iran, and then transformed Hussein into a threat to world peace and used U.S. troops to topple his regime.

The ferocity of the Islamic State, its macabre staging of beheadings and their impact on the Internet are the expression of the same contemptuous attitude toward peoples that the imperialist powers exhibit in their war. However, the leaders of Islamic State also have a political objective.

First of all, the Islamic State is trying to impose itself over rival groups, and to pull into its sphere of influence armed groups that are active in many parts of the world. They are trying to impose themselves as a kind of successor to the loosely organized Al Qaeda.

Beyond that, “The Islamic State” uses these methods in order to sow terror amongst the peoples it is trying to dominate and impose both allegiance and obedience.

The “Islamic State’s” methods of conquering illustrate how it will exercise power afterwards. It exercises a dictatorship over all those who don’t agree, as well as over ethnic or religious minorities, women, and the exploited. Their reactionary objectives and the methods they use clearly demonstrate that the “Islamic State” and their henchmen throughout the world are fierce enemies of the proletariat.

In imperialist countries, the less bellicose politicians denounce how ineffective it is to bomb territories controlled by Islamic State, and they call for a political settlement.

Of course, it is obvious that bombing is ineffective. Jihadist troops continue to advance, and what politicians euphemistically call collateral damage from Western military intervention pushes new contingents of recruits into the arms of the jihadists. As for a political settlement, there is none. Imperialism is totally incapable of assuring relations between peoples that are not oppressive, either between ethnic groups or religions. Nor can it end inequality, poverty and corruption. It feeds these problems, aggravates them and constantly creates new ones.

French imperialism did send Rafale jet fighters against the “Islamic State.” But the Socialist president of the Republic and government tried to compensate for its ridiculously small force by making a lot of noisy gestures. This has been a tradition in French politics: when in power, the Socialist Party becomes a particularly vindictive representative of French imperialism. The Socialists, who carry out such a servile foreign policy for the French bourgeoisie, are able to attract the applause of the right wing with their declarations of “national unity” or “national solidarity.”

Every class-conscious worker will reject these despicable calls for national unity. The French bourgeoisie is their direct enemy and it doesn’t become their friend when it wages wars to steal still more outside the country’s boundaries.

The bellicose atmosphere prevailing inside imperialist countries is reinforced by the growing strains in relations with Russia and by the return of a sort of Cold War. These tensions have brought about a whole series of measures against Russia. But they are still limited. The main European bourgeoisies, in particular in Germany and France, don’t want to jeopardize all their interests in Russian industry, banking and commerce – even under pressure from the United States.

The number of armed groups on this planet in regions dominated by imperialism has multiplied, although they do not all claim to adhere to Islamic fundamentalism. This is a negative consequence of the disintegration of an increasing number of state apparatuses set up and either supported or tolerated by imperialism. This disintegration is nothing new. However, now it is happening in the Middle East, a region that is strategically and economically important to the big imperialist powers.

Africa Driven into Decay

In Africa, the germs of the decomposition of the state machinery were present from the time when decolonization began. This came out of the very nature of these states which were meant, first, as a symbolic satisfaction of the desire of the African masses to rid themselves of colonial slavery, and second, as a means to perpetuate imperialist plunder. It was this contradictory character that compelled these states to be, from the outset, at best authoritarian or, more often, dictatorial regimes.

Imperialism expects these regimes to control their population, but it doesn’t give them the means to do it. Those who run theses apparatuses are rewarded with the unlimited right to rob their own people. What they take through robbery and corruption is added to the ongoing imperialist plunder.

Getting a seat in the U.N. and a national flag could not long compensate the masses for the perpetuation of poverty. The history of independent countries in Africa is marked by a series of military coups and takeovers. A byproducts of this has been the emergence of armed groups. Some of them simply rob the people in order to maintain the privileges, big or small, of the armed gangs’ leaders. The leaders’ subordinates have the privilege of carrying a gun, which gives them the means to survive. Others try to find support on an ethnic or a religious basis.

Somalia has been without a centralized state apparatus since Siad Barre’s dictatorship fell in 1992.

For many years, Sierra Leone and Liberia were without a centralized state, since it gave way to the rule of rival armed gangs.

For years, the Ivory Coast was cut in half. The North was ruled by local warlords and the South was under the presidency of Laurent Gbagbo. This division was only overcome when French troops, stationed in the country, intervened and imposed Alassane Ouattara as president.

More recently, Mali almost disappeared. Here again, the French army played the role of cop in the former colonial empire to give the semblance of a functioning state apparatus in Mali, which nonetheless could not survive without the support of the French army.

In Central Africa, the French army’s intervention simply added an armed gang to those already existing in the area, without putting an end to bloody chaos.

In Libya, the country has continued to decompose since the fall of Khadaffi. This has played a major role in the destabilization of an entire region in Africa.

In Congo (ex-Zaire), the largest country on the continent, the central power has not controlled the whole territory for many years. The rival armed gangs, financed by local representatives of big companies competing to rob the country of its immense wealth in raw materials, have caused three million casualties. In addition, countless others have fallen victim to disease and malnutrition as a result of the wars.

The disorganization of the national armies of a number of African countries has compelled imperialist powers to reinforce their presence on the continent. There haven’t been this many foreign soldiers in Africa in all the years since these countries became “independent.” They are often sent under the cover of the United Nations. But French imperialism remains the country which has the greatest number of bases and soldiers or “councillors” of all kinds on the continent.

The Powder Keg of the Middle East

The weakening of the state in Syria and decomposition of the state in Iraq have had consequences on a much higher level than Africa, because the Middle East has much greater strategic importance due to the region’s oil riches and geographic position.

Today, the borders established after World War I and maintained with some modifications ever since, are being threatened. The configuration of the region, set up on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, and its division into a great number of states, reflected the relationship of forces between the European imperialist forces which had won the war, in particular between France and Great Britain. Despite its longevity, this order was always very fragile, especially since the rivalry between these two declining imperial powers was soon challenged by the increasing influence of the United States.

This inter-imperialist rivalry was more or less hidden at the time of the USSR, which was geographically near and diplomatically present in the region. The competing imperial powers appeared to be united against the common enemy. But behind the scenes, the big oil and arms trusts remained in permanent competition with each other, with each seeking the support of their national state. The rivalry focused on aspects like access to local oil fields, arms contracts and, more generally, influential positions close to the local despots.

Apart from the instability created by the rivalry existing between imperialist powers and their changing relationship of forces, there was the imperialists’ deliberate effort to permanently play on the rivalry between the states of the region that imperialism had cut up for that purpose.

The relations between the states of the area have always been tumultuous despite the fact that the people of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the tiny Emirates and Egypt speak the same language. The history of these countries is marked by fleeting alliances followed by periods of antagonism that often tend to lead to armed conflicts.

The state of Israel plays a special role in this game of divide and rule. English imperialism, which dominated Palestine and the entire region and tried to safeguard certain Arab leaders that it had put in power, had only accepted the creation of Israel after the American government, with the support of French imperialism, pushed for it. The U.S. was in the process of replacing Great Britain in this region, and the U.S. looked to make Israel an unswerving ally of imperialism. In sharp contrast with the Arab states – run by regimes that were cut off from their population, corrupt, and permanently under threat of being toppled – the state of Israel, when it was created in 1948, embodied the aspirations, the will to have their own country of hundreds of thousands of Jews, who had survived Nazi barbarism, and were not welcome in America or Europe.

There was the historic possibility for the Arab masses to consider these people as an ally and not as a conquering force, and, in fact, even with differences between these populations, as a contributor to the whole region. This possibility could only have become a reality on the basis of a courageous policy aimed at winning over the hearts of the Arab exploited masses, in a coalition against the traditional oppressors and exploiters of the area, land owners and capital owners alike, and above all through a common opposition to the imperialist powers. In other words, what was needed was a revolutionary class-based policy.

But the only policy that was put forward was that of Zionism, which consisted of imposing the state of Israel on the Palestinian people through violence and expropriation. From the outset, this policy offered the Israeli Jewish people no other perspective than to reinforce the link with the imperialist powers and to become imperialism’s mercenaries, controlling the Arab masses, transforming the Israelis into prison guards of the Palestinian people.

Established on the basis of the oppression of the Palestinian people, Israel is the most trustworthy ally and armed force serving the interests of imperialism against all the neighboring Arab people. It also allows the Arab regimes, including those which are fanatically devoted to imperialism like Saudi Arabia or the oil Emirates, to mask their reactionary policies behind antiIsrael declarations. Israel is an essential part of imperialism’s machine to control the area. In exchange for its unfailing support to uphold the oppression of the Palestinian people, the state of Israel is condemned to carry out a policy that is catastrophic for both peoples who are inextricably linked, and the vast majority of whom would have a deep interest in fraternal cohabitation.

In carving up the Middle East, imperialism never recognized the rights of certain people, like the Kurds, to have a national existence, which they had been demanding for decades.

The stance of the West’s coalition against the “Islamic State” shows the extent of the cynicism with which they treat the aspirations and daily conditions of these people. They use the Kurdish Pesh Merga fighters because they are the only armed force that was left to combat the jihadists after the collapse of the Iraqi army. At the same time, the coalition forces refuse to send them the armaments they need to defeat their heavily armed jihadist opponents, for fear that the Kurds might then pose other problems to the states in which they live, in particular Turkey, which is another major military ally of the United States in the area.

The only form of support to the Pesh Merga forces has been aerial bombardments that have most certainly killed more of the population than jihadists. The pictures showing Turkish army tanks, watching the fall of Kobane at the hands of jihadist groups, and not intervening, except to prevent Turkish Kurds from joining Syrian Kurds to fight on their side, sums up the infamous policy of the imperialist powers in the area.

The fact that the states were cut up into so many rival bits and pieces could only result in the emergence of virulent nationalism and the oppression of peoples, of ethnic groups, of religious minorities or simply of opponents to the regimes in power.

The Middle East has always been a powder keg. When the leaders of the U.S., the most powerful imperialism, decided to topple Saddam Hussein, they lit the match.

The proliferation of armed groups claiming to be Islamic is the continuation of a long series of opposition movements and upheavals that imperialist domination has provoked throughout its history.

Imperialism is the domination by a small layer of privileged people who plunder the rest of the planet. It can only perpetuate itself by pitting one state against the other, by pitting peoples against each other. Imperialism also encourages the growth of armed groups, which it either supports, when it serves the interests of the imperialists, or declare “public enemies,” when it doesn’t serve them any more.

In the 69 years since the end of World War II, we have seen a multitude of local or regional wars, conflicts that were more or less violent.

After the Disappearance of the Soviet Union

Before the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of a world divided into two blocs, these more or less violent clashes were viewed as a part of the so-called Cold War – which was anything but cold, except between the two big powers. It was not cold in Korea or Vietnam or, more generally speaking, anywhere the two camps came into contact. And even far away from the actual limits of the two blocs, in Africa or Asia for instance, most local conflicts that tore apart these regions fueled the U.S. and Soviet rivalry, conflicts that were sometimes muted, sometimes violent. The Cold War seemed to define these conflicts, but it was never the actual cause.

The Soviet bureaucrats did their best, even if it was only on the strictly diplomatic level, to benefit from these local conflicts. But the underlying cause for permanent revolts and conflicts was imperialism’s stranglehold, its economic plunder and support of dictatorships.

The Stalinist bureaucrats waged wars of oppression inside their zone of influence (directly in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and indirectly through the Jaruzelski’s military regime in Poland in 1981). The Stalinist bureaucrats also provoked conflicts, such as when the they installed missiles in Cuba or carried out their military adventure in Afghanistan, on the outskirts of their zone.

However, the conflicts that have followed the collapse of the Soviet Union show that the permanent challenge of the imperialist order did not come from the Soviet Union, but out of the inherent nature of imperialist domination.

One had to be either a servile publicist or plain stupid to imagine that the end of the two-bloc system meant the beginning of an era of worldwide peace! Given the euphoria of the imperialist leaders celebrating their victory over the Soviet camp, the permanent underlying tensions from imperialist domination could be ignored, but only for a while. Indeed, these tensions continued and they grew stronger and wider as they approached the zone that had previously been controlled by the USSR.

Even the most naive individuals out of the working masses in the exPeople’s Democracies, who had hoped that their countries’ reintegration into the Western camp would fill the shops with consumer goods, soon discovered unemployment kept them from accessing those goods. And those who welcomed the end of the Soviet bureaucracy’s grip over the local political castes soon discovered another type of domination: that of the West’s big companies which took over the profitable local industries and demolished the rest.

During the last 25 years, the world has been anything but peaceful. On the contrary, there have been more conflicts, and the conflicts have been more out of control. Indeed, if the Soviet bureaucracy knew how to use these conflicts to promote its diplomatic interests, it was also able to stop them or even smother them.

While the Soviet bureaucracy appeared as the dominant anti-imperialist power, it also played the role of a watchdog inside its sphere of influence. As soon as Soviet bureaucrats no longer had the will or, perhaps the capacity, to continue to play this role inside the People’s Democracies, these countries immediately rallied round the imperialist camp.

When the USSR collapsed, the imperialist powers which were rivals amongst themselves, worked together to fill the vacuum left by Russia in the states that had made up the Union.

Before the top bureaucrats, including Yeltsin and his Ukrainian and Byelorussian counterparts, took the decision to dissolve the Soviet Union, the Stalinist bureaucracy had already transformed the Union into a huge prison for all the peoples. Not only did the bureaucrats stifle the immense hopes raised by the October Revolution among the peoples oppressed by Czarism, it set off and exacerbated centrifugal tendencies.

On the eve of World War II, Trotsky published a booklet entitled “The Ukrainian Question,” in which he wrote: “(…)Despite the giant step forward taken by the October Revolution in the domain of national relations, the isolated proletarian revolution in a backward country proved incapable of solving the national question, especially the Ukrainian question which is, in its very, essence, international in character. The Thermidorian reaction, crowned by the Bonapartist bureaucracy, has thrown the toiling masses far back in the national sphere as well.” And he concluded: “This is the fact that the political revolutionary, distinguishing himself from the bureaucrats or the sectarian militants, must start from.

The fact that the Soviet Union’s economic development was based on a planned framework strengthened the Union, but the Kremlin’s oppression could only reinforce centrifugal tendencies. The bureaucracy was never able to solve the national question in the USSR. It only stifled it or hid it, leaving behind many time bombs.

The stage was set for imperialism’s maneuvers.

A World at War

The break-up of Yugoslavia, which was followed by the long period of armed conflicts between the states that came out of that break-up, prefigured what is now happening in Ukraine. The political nationalist clans of Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, etc., played a major role in these latest Balkan wars, which were even bloodier than the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913; the French, German and British imperialists played the role of pyromaniac firemen.

Two decades later, the population of the former Yugoslavia has not recovered from the economic and, above all, human consequences of that war. The states created in the ruins of exYugoslavia remain economically and demographically weak. They are like toys that the big imperialist power can easily manipulate. Moreover, they are incapable of finding a democratic solution to the problems faced by the national minorities living on their territory. The surrealistic contraption of Bosnia is the most visible proof of the fragility of these states. But it is not the only one.

For historical, geographical and size reasons, the three Baltic states quickly reunited with the West, and then with the European Union. As for the other states born of the USSR’s collapse, the imperialist powers pursued different strategies on the economic, political and diplomatic levels.

The end of the Stalinist dictatorship brought to the surface a multitude of antagonisms which had previously been stifled (Armenia against Azerbaijan, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia seceded from Georgia, the Russian minority, and Ukrainian minorities against the state of Moldavia, etc.). Imperialist powers, in particular those of Europe, have openly or quietly become major actors in these conflicts, thereby making them bigger.

However, the Ukrainian conflict has taken on an importance that is much greater than what happened in Georgia. Ukraine is a big country with a population of over 40 million people. Given its century-old ties with Russia and the economic and demographic interdependence of the two countries, the Russian bureaucrats whose power was consolidated anew after Putin replaced Yeltsin, could not accept that Ukraine fall completely under the influence of the European Union. Even less can the Russians accept that Ukraine become a member of NATO.

By the European Union proposing to Ukraine a form of economic cooperation, without giving up anything in return, and above all, by the United States proposing that Ukraine join NATO, they have all played with fire. But they claim that Putin is the pyromaniac!

Both sides – imperialism and the Kremlin – are responsible for the situation in Ukraine, with the terrible consequences for the people of the country. Thousands have been killed so far and there has been widespread destruction, and there is even greater impoverishment in a region that had already been impoverished brought on by the rupture of a lot of its economic ties, due to the break-up of the USSR.

Worse, there is a risk that the present conflict will set the peoples of Ukraine and Russia against each other, and inside Ukraine itself, the Russian-speaking against the Ukrainian-speaking peoples. Other national minorities (Ruthenian, Slovak, Rumanian, Hungarian, Czech, etc.) are also victims of the conflict.

After Yugoslavia, this is another important part of Europe that is mired in war.

For a long time, bourgeois democracy was the prevailing political regime in the imperialist countries. But that was always based on the enslavement of the peoples in the colonies.

Nazism in Germany already showed the fundamental instability of bourgeois democracy, even in the countries that were more advanced in terms of their material and intellectual development. With the World War, all these “imperialistic democracies” were transformed into military regimes.

So far, the present crisis has simply discredited bourgeois democracy a lot, as is shown by the rise in the electoral results of the so-called populist political formations.

Reformists of every hue blame “globalization,” which established the world’s all-mighty financial markets, while it deprived the states of any means to intervene. It’s an old habit of reformists to hide the concrete facts of the class struggle behind abstractions.

Behind the “financial markets” are the same big imperialist bourgeoisies that are behind the imperialist states. The national parliaments of even the most democratic countries were nothing more than echo chambers, and the national governments were the executive committees of the big bourgeoisie. The current evolution sheds some light on this undeniable truth: big capital and the bourgeois class dominate the world, and they are leading it to a catastrophe.

One consequence of the crisis of imperialist democracy is the fact that in countries which appeared to have already solved the “national” question, there is a push to dissolve the bonds between national components.

Age-old antagonisms appear or are bubbling up again, pitting the Flemish against the Walloons in Belgium, the Scots and the English in Great Britain, the nationalist Catalans against the Castillians in Spain.

For the time being, these problems are being dealt with inside the framework of imperialist democracy.

These phenomenons reflect a regression at the historical level. Imperialism, “the senile stage of capitalism,” even corrodes “national unity,” that the bourgeoisie had initiated in an earlier period, to further capitalist development.

As for the states of Central Europe and the Balkans, they are crippled by the same centrifugal forces as Yugoslavia before it broke up. The development of contending nationalisms, claims on ancient homelands, and open or disguised claims on territory, have been going on for years. But they have become more virulent.

These countries, that are home to various peoples who lived together, have been carved up more than once during and after World War I, and then again after World War II. This situation has created a breeding ground for far-right groups which enjoy people’s support, especially since the local supposed democratic regimes set up after Soviet domination ended could not or would not recognize the national rights of their country’s minorities.

This regression is apparent in different aspects of social life. Reactionary ideas are being reinforced. Religion and the churches are becoming more important in the society.

Decadent capitalism opens no perspective, no hope to society. There is perhaps no better indication of the deep despair generated by a society without any perspective than how even a small fraction of youth are attracted to armed groups battling in the name of medieval ideals.

Religious Fundamentalists Push Society Further Backward

The fundamentalist armed groups represent a form of rebellion against imperialism’s global order, even in an indirect way. But obviously their challenge offers no perspective for this society, and they intervene as a kind of auxiliary to imperialism to push society backward. The imperialist order, that is, the rule of the big capitalist multinationals, adjusts to political disorder.

With the local conflicts, imperialism reaps the whirlwind that it sows. No one can tell where this development will eventually lead.

Imperialism has left behind a huge number of time bombs that result from the divisions and antagonisms that imperialism creates. Nobody knows whether the aggravation of the crisis or its mere duration will trigger an explosion.

This question is posed, for instance, in the case of India and Pakistan, two countries that have nuclear weapons! Then there is India and Bangladesh, which share a border with a 2,116- mile wall that cuts through an area inhabited by Bengalis, who live on both sides of the wall. That wall and similar walls built between Israel and Palestine, Mexico and the United States, around Ceuta and Melilla (Spain’s North African enclaves) or around the Europe of the Schengen area are one of the most abject expressions of the decaying imperialist order. Global capitalism has created an unprecedented economic and financial interdependence among countries. It has developed modern means of communication and transportation which transform borders into obsolete and unbearable obstacles. At the same time, it drives society into a corner where it is left to rot and collapse in chaos.

Recently, the French weekly, Courrier International, ran the front page headline, “Tomorrow, World War III?” Even though this was a typical example of sensational journalism, perhaps we are witnessing a possible globalization of local wars. After two world wars which opposed two imperialist camps, imperialism is perhaps in the process of taking a different road to barbarism.

Only the rebirth of a revolutionary working class movement can give a perspective for humanity.

For over a century, the policy of the working class movement weighed, either directly or indirectly, not only on social relations inside different countries, but also on international relations.

Marx’s statement that a “specter was haunting Europe” in The Communist Manifesto that he wrote in 1848, was in anticipation of what was coming. With the Paris Commune of 1871, this anticipation became concrete for the first time.

Less than 50 years after the proletariat’s first attempt to rip power away from the bourgeoisie, and 12 years after the 1905 Revolution in Russia, the proletariat seized power in Russia. It threatened the capitalist order at the level of Europe.

Despite the setback of the proletarian revolution everywhere but in Russia, despite the bureaucratic degeneration of an isolated Soviet Union, October 1917 continued to weigh on international relations throughout the 20th century. First of all, the USSR bureaucracy remained a pole of opposition to imperialism, despite playing a stabilizing role in the worldwide imperialist order. Its simple existence encouraged the masses in the poor countries and was a sort of reference, thereby weighing on international relations.

To a certain extent, the October Revolution still weighed on international relations through its distant and deformed offspring, including those who advocated Third Worldism, along with its Maoist or Castroist variants.

However, the betrayal of the October Revolution by Stalinism destroyed the direct connection between the working class and the revolutionary workers’ movement. As a result, many generations were betrayed and demoralized.

When the bureaucrats finally kicked away the ladder and dissolved the Soviet Union, the break with the past was complete. That opened the gates to a multitude of forces, each more reactionary than the next. They went from organizing around ethnicity to nationalism, by way of Islamism. Those forces vied for leadership of movements opposing imperialism, which were always being generated.

The Crisis of the Leadership of the Proletariat Continues

The Transitional Program starts with the following statement: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” It goes on to say: “The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism.... Conjunctural crises under the conditions of the social crisis of the whole capitalist system inflict ever heavier deprivations and sufferings upon the masses. Growing unemployment, in its turn, deepens the financial crisis of the state and undermines the unstable monetary systems. Democratic regimes, as well as fascist, stagger on from one bankruptcy to another. The bourgeoisie itself sees no way out.

These lines, written by Trotsky on the eve of World War II, can be said to describe the situation today!

Since then, with the complicity of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie has been able to avoid a new wave of proletarian revolutions. The reign of the bourgeoisie has been extended by a few decades. However, the present crisis shows that the bourgeoisie has not been able to overcome capitalism’s fundamental contradictions.

For decades, the so-called Communist Parties followed the road of the so-called Socialist Parties in order to become fully integrated in the capitalist system and became cogwheels before disappearing as leaders in the struggles of the working class.

The crisis of the leadership of the proletariat was not overcome. The old leaderships are dead as such without being replaced by a new leadership.

While insisting on the fundamental importance of the “leadership of the proletariat” for the future of humanity, Trotsky added the following assessment: “The orientation of the masses is determined first by the objective conditions of decaying capitalism, and second, by the treacherous politics of the old workers’ organizations. Of these factors, the first, of course, is the decisive one: the laws of history are stronger than the bureaucratic apparatus.

This affirmation remains true to this day. The laws of history are still active even though many factors, notably the successive treasons of the Social Democracy and then Stalinism, explain why events have been slower than revolutionaries might wish.

Imperialist capitalism is a dead end and the working class as a social force has not disappeared. It can be found in a multitude of countries where, at the time of Lenin and even more so, Marx, it only existed in embryonic form or didn’t exist at all.

The working class has shown its combativeness in a multitude of countries, from China to South Africa, by way of Bangladesh. There are many political forces that aim to channel these fights. But all of them stand on the side of the bourgeoisie, from reformists of all kinds to the most reactionary.

It will be up to future generations to re-establish ties with the traditions of revolutionary communism, with its past struggles and experiences. Everywhere the problem is posed of reconstructing revolutionary communist parties. And this question is linked to the rebirth of a revolutionary communist international.

No one can tell how and through what channels, revolutionary communist ideas will be able to reach the working class, the social class they were meant for since the time of Marx and then Lenin and Trotsky. But today only this class can take up these ideas and transform them into a social explosion that will do away with capitalism.