Oct 30, 2017
The following article, which appeared in issue #188, December 2017, of Lutte de Classe, the political journal of the French Trotskyist organization, Lutte Ouvrière, is a text from LO’s annual congress.
At the very same moment that leaders of the major powers were loudly trumpeting their victory over ISIS after the recapture of Mosul then Raqqa, the verbal battle between Trump and Kim Jong-un demonstrated the tensions that dominate international relations. Even if it is bluster on both sides, it signifies the lingering atmosphere of war.
Nonetheless, there is no substantial equivalence between the bluster coming from the president of the main imperialist power, which intervenes in every corner of the world, and that of the leader of a small under-developed country that is permanently threatened by the United States and that has already experienced U.S. military intervention during the Korean War.
The relations between the major powers are dominated by the trio of the United States, Russia, and China, with U.S. imperialism having a clear military and diplomatic supremacy. The mutual relations are a mixture of rivalry and collaboration. The U.S. and Russia are involved in rivalry over Russia’s western borders, with the pretext of Ukraine and the real or imagined fears of Poland and the Baltic countries, at the same time that they collaborate in the Middle East. The United States and China are rivals in the China Sea and more generally in Southeast Asia, while at the same time they collaborate at the international level.
At the moment, these are nothing but big maneuvers, saber-rattling, and diplomatic arm wrestling, but they say more about international relations than do soothing speeches at the United Nations or patting each other on the back by the major powers’ diplomats.
With the bourgeoisie unable to find a way out of the global crisis of its own economy, several local and regional conflicts carry within them the threat of setting off a more generalized confrontation.
The European Union, so little unified, is trying to get in on the game that the United States, Russia, and China are playing, but without much success. Although it is considered to be a major economic power, the European Union is in fact not one, for the simple reason that it is multiple, with an outward appearance of unity that cannot hide the many rivalries that tear it apart. These include the rivalries between the three imperialist powers that dominate the continent (Germany, France, and Great Britain), illustrated by the negotiations over Brexit in which each country is trying to advance its own interests at the expense of the others. And within this, there is competition between Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam to get their hands on the financial prize long ensconced in the City of London. Furthermore, there are rivalries of another nature between the imperialist powers of Europe and the semi-developed parts of the continent which they dominate.
The dominance of the three imperialist powers of Western Europe over the semi-developed Eastern part of the continent – barely masked by the formal equality between members of the European Union – has been thoroughly demonstrated over the past several years by the strangling of Greece.
The trio’s dominance increasingly results in defensive reactions by the former People’s Democracies, especially from the Visegrad Group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary), which, despite the intensifying chauvinism of their respective regimes, are trying to come to an understanding. They do this to survive within Europe in the face of the three imperialist powers whose corporations dominate their economies, as well as to break out of their insignificance in the community of nations outside of the European Union.
The reactionary evolution taking place in all of Europe is reflected in its clearest, most authoritarian, and caricatured form in these four countries. For their own gain, their political leaders brandish slogans of national and ethnic identity, posing as the defenders of “Christian Europe” in the face of migrants, as a means to channel the discontent and frustration that has built up in the laboring classes hit by the crisis and by increasing inequality.
The followers of Viktor Orban’s regime in Hungary pretend that the erection of barbed wire to prevent migrants from passing through the Balkans is an act of resistance against the European Union, supposed to represent the arrogance of the rich part of Europe. In doing so, they give the leaders of the imperialist democracies the way to pose as the defenders of basic liberties flouted by Orban in Hungary or Kaczynski in Poland. And they allow the imperialist countries to paper over the exploitation to which their own corporations subject the workers of these countries, whom they pay three or four times less than their class brothers and sisters in Western Europe for the same labor.
Undermined by internal rivalries, the European Union leaves a free hand at the diplomatic and military level to the leaders of the second-tier imperialist powers that dominate it. But each of these powers dances to its own tune at the international level, whether in confrontation with Russia or China, or against Turkey and Iran in the zone of tension in the Middle East. In reality, it is the United States that can impose a brief semblance of unity on them, whether by boycotting whatever country displeases Washington at a given moment or by threatening military intervention.
In all this tumult, French imperialism distinguishes itself by an aggressiveness that is particularly directed towards its old African colonies. Presidents may replace each other, but French troops continue to be present in several African countries, and French imperialism, which plays a secondary role on the international stage, casts itself as the policeman of the continent.
For at least a century, the European states have suffocated within their national borders, even while history placed European unification on the order of the day. However, the various national bourgeoisies could only create this stunted caricature that is the European Union. Today, even the national states – which were the great creation of the national bourgeoisies in the distant past when they represented progress over the feudal carving up of Europe – are wearing down under the forces of decomposition. Examples of this include separatist moves in Scotland, Lombardy and Veneto; or between the Flemish and Walloon parts of Belgium; and the demand for independence in Catalonia. Within a completely globalized economy, capitalism’s decline is causing feudal divides to resurface. It is a sign of history marching backwards under decadent capitalism.
Revolutionary communists must combat the rise of these nationalisms which clash and mutually reinforce each other. They must also oppose “refined nationalism, which advocates the division and splitting up of the proletariat on the most plausible and specious pretexts,” as Lenin described in an article from May 1914. “This is absolutely incompatible with proletarian internationalism, which advocates, not only closer relations between nations, but the amalgamation of the workers of all nationalities in a given state in united proletarian organizations.”
Lenin wrote this text aiming at various populist organizations, the Bund in Russia itself, and the followers of what was called Austro-Marxism. But it could be said to have been written today, against the nationalist digressions of a part of the far left, particularly in Catalonia.
On November 8th, 2016, Trump was elected in the “world’s greatest democracy,” even though he won three million votes fewer than his competitor. New to the political arena, this multibillionaire had already surprised its personnel by establishing his dominance in the Republican primaries against the party elite. Trump defied predictions when he defeated Hillary Clinton, a politician with a long and impeccable track record within the U.S. state apparatus and a favorite in business circles. He did so using an explosive mixture of protectionist demagogy promising to bring back jobs, denunciation of “the system,” xenophobic remarks about immigrants in general and about Muslims in particular, and crassly sexist comments to top it off. Once the shock had passed, Wall Street and the U.S. bourgeoisie quickly recognized him as one of their own. After having campaigned by posturing as the spokesman of U.S. workers, Trump is now proposing a budget in which the official tax rate on corporate profits will fall from 38% to 20%. The talk about bringing back outsourced jobs only roped in those who believe election promises, and xenophobic or sexist remarks do not annoy financiers.
Since then, Trump has reinforced his reputation as a reactionary demagogue, alongside of whom French far-right leader Marine Le Pen appears to be a moderate politician. Is he a stupid man who tweets faster thank he can think? Without a doubt. But he is not the first idiot to occupy the White House. In any case, the most powerful bourgeoisie on the planet does not allow the running of its affairs to depend on the chance of personality, even that of its president. The U.S. state apparatus includes thousands of professionals at all levels, devoted body and soul to the interests of the capitalists, and the institutions themselves contain many brakes and counterweights, starting with Congress, both chambers of which are controlled by Republican majorities. Congress has not yet enacted a single one of the promises on which Trump got himself elected. It cannot even be ruled out that the establishment is looking to get rid of Trump if he should prove to be too uncontrollable, or if he should confuse his personal affairs with those of the state too much, as is the case with Russia, where Trump has somewhat confused the interests of his own business empire with those of the United States. The nomination of a special prosecutor is a move in this direction and serves as a reminder that, as arrogant and vain as he is, Trump is not the only one in power. In any case, although he got himself elected by promising change and has been in power for nine months, this has changed nothing fundamental.
Even in terms of foreign policy, the rupture that Trump hoped to incarnate has taken more the form of gestures and speeches than of reality, at least for the moment. He has railed more and more against North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. But he holds back from breaking the Iranian nuclear agreement. The demagogy of politicians for internal consumption is one thing, but the affairs of imperialism are another.
Immigrants have found themselves at the center of Trump’s attacks, since he has taken special aim at the 11 million undocumented population. But anti-immigrant demagogy and militarization of the border with Mexico are not new. From 2000 to 2016, at least 6,023 immigrants died in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico as they tried to cross a border sealed more and more tightly, already partially enclosed by a wall. In other words, if Trump is trying to make the conditions that immigrants face harsher, he is not the first to do so. During the eight years of the Obama administration (2009-2017), 3.1 million immigrants were deported, a record number, coming on top of the increasing amounts of immigrants the Clinton (1993-2001) and Bush (2001-2009) administrations had already sent back across the border.
Trump is threatening to end a program that allows 800,000 young immigrants (the “Dreamers”) to remain in the United States if they came with their parents when they were children. Within the limits of the powers allotted to the presidency, he can harshen the conditions of migration and the lives of foreign workers; the departure of several thousand immigrants to Canada expresses this fear. After all, although immigration contributed to the construction of the United States, the country has often adopted a restrictive policy towards it. One thing is nevertheless certain: the anti-immigration policies will stop where the clear interests of the capitalists begin. Undocumented workers represent an easily exploitable workforce, essential for large-scale farming, industry, food-processing, construction, and … the hotels and golf courses owned by Trump himself.
Russia is one of four or five countries that, after the United States, have the most billionaires per capita measured in dollars, while millions of people there are struggling to survive at the subsistence level.
This wide gulf between an extremely rich minority and the majority of the population, in which elementary school teachers earn the equivalent of $140 per month and highly skilled workers earn $650 per month, constitutes a prominent trait of Russian society.
The pillage of the economy and the working classes by privileged groups linked to the state (bureaucrats, mafia, and new bourgeois) has never stopped. It continues even one quarter of a century after the leading bureaucracy, through its own greed and irresponsibility, brought about the breakup and then disappearance of the Soviet Union, this distant heir to the workers’ state born out of the October revolution, 100 years ago.
Russia is the main state to have emerged from this collapse, due to its size, population, relative wealth, and place in international relations. But it remains marked by the same irresponsibility to their own system by the classes and social layers that direct and benefit from it.
Thus, the Russian president proclaimed a new amnesty for those who repatriated the money they had hidden abroad. This had no more effect than the previous one. Organized by the rich, the flight of capital deprives Russia of the means to recover. In addition, it feeds into a global financial system dominated by the imperialist powers, with the U.S. at its head, against which the Russian government pretends to be able to compete, despite all evidence to the contrary.
It only appears paradoxical that the Kremlin, which is trying to find a way to achieve a certain economic development, would make it easier for Russian companies to register themselves abroad. In fact, Vladimir Putin can only serve the castes and classes whom he represents at the summit of power, even when their predatory behavior weakens their own state.
The wealthy classes of this parasitic system see Putin’s power as their greatest defense against the rest of society. Even if he has not yet announced it, Putin is preparing to seek a fourth term at the head of the Russian Federation next March. With no credible rival in either the state bureaucracy or among the oligarchs who have been reigned in for the most part, he appears to be the only one capable of leading the regime.
The instability of the regime that Putin heads forces him to muzzle any discordant voice, including the only opposition that is at all organized, led by the lawyer Alexei Navalny, sworn enemy of the corruption of governmental elites.
It is not the ideas of Navalny – a xenophobic and monarchist nationalist and a champion of capitalism – that scare the Kremlin. It is the fact that his denunciation of some of the regime’s flaws finds an echo beyond the petty-bourgeois business circles and intellectual youth, which he mobilizes on the scale of the country in prohibited demonstrations.
To the extent one can judge from the distance, Navalny’s challenge to the parasitism of those in power resonates in wide circles and in workplaces, while the authorities recognize that a diffuse but real discontent exists within the working class.
At the international level, even while Russia searches to defend its diplomatic and military interests, it is reduced to offering its assistance to the United States to help resolve some tricky problems, such as in the Middle East and North Korea.
This does not stop imperialism, and especially the United States, from ratcheting up the pressure on Russia even on its own turf. The U.S. has enacted spectacular new sanctions against the Kremlin on the pretext of its annexation of Crimea and is putting its full strength behind the nationalist and xenophobic regime of Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine. This regime, which is worth no more than that of Putin, finds favor with the Western powers for the sole reason that it is a thorn in the side of Russia.
The Middle East, with its strategic position and its oil wealth, has been the epicenter of imperialist rivalries for a long time. It is also the barometer of the relations between the major powers.
This year, the organization of the Islamic State lost a large part of the territory that it had conquered in Iraq and Syria, notably the cities of Mosul and Raqqa. Likewise, the troops of Bashar al-Assad took back Aleppo from the groups of the opposition, in large part consisting of jihadist militias. For all that, this does not mean the end of the conflicts, neither in Syria and Iraq, nor in the rest of the region. On the contrary, rivalries are breaking out between the different powers concerned.
The relative stabilization of Syria is first of all due to Russia’s intervention, which the United States accepted because it had become unable to control the situation. With additional support from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, al-Assad’s regime in Damascus emerged reinforced. After having gambled on the overthrow of al-Assad’s regime, the imperialist powers now accept it as a lesser evil, since that gives them someone to work with who exercises a certain authority. However, the fact that al-Assad is a favored ally of Russia and Iran poses a problem for them. Therefore, they continue to apply pressure on or intervene against the regime in Damascus and others. However, the various other allies on whom the imperialist powers can rely often have their own contradictory interests and cannot always be controlled.
Saudi Arabia, for example, a traditional ally of the United States, has ambitions of making itself a regional power at the expense of Iran, which it fears will become reinforced. The Saudi regime has embarked on a military intervention in Yemen, fearing to see a political power take hold there that might reinforce the Saudi internal opposition, and could even serve as a support for the regional ambitions of its Iranian rival. The Saudi regime, which is known to have significantly contributed to the development of jihadist groups, has also broken with Qatar, accusing it of complicity with terrorism, which does not lack irony. The real reason for the Saudi break is that Qatar, which is already cooperating with Iran in the exploitation of an enormous natural gas deposit, also has economic ambitions in the future reconstruction of Syria and the financial means to do so with the interested support of Turkey. Saudi Arabia wants to send a message to Qatar, as well as to allies in the region like the other emirates, that it will not accept their drawing closer to Iran or their emancipation from Saudi Arabia’s own regional domination.
Turkey, for its part, is paying the consequences of its failed interventions in Syria and its support for jihadist groups there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is forced to accommodate himself to the reinforcement of al-Assad’s regime as well as to Russian and Iranian influence. And while he would like to preserve his relations with Saudi Arabia, above all he wants to avoid breaking with Qatar, with which he has developed close economic and financial relations, particularly the projects of exploiting the oil and natural gas resources. Finally, one of the results of the war in Syria has been the creation of a new autonomous Kurdish territory, the Rojava, at the Turkish border. Its leaders are allied with the PKK, the autonomist organization of Kurds in Turkey.
In order to combat the Islamic State organization while avoiding the direct deployment of its own troops, the United States has leaned heavily on Kurdish fighters, in Iraq as well as in Syria. But the Kurds are hoping to be paid back by having their autonomy recognized. This has already happened in Iraqi Kurdistan, whose leaders recently upped the ante by organizing a referendum on independence. But for the United States, and also for Russia, officially recognizing the autonomy and even more the independence of the Kurdish territories would place them in a difficult situation with their allies, whether Iran, Syria, Iraq, or Turkey. At most, what can come to fruition is a certain status quo, and this for a limited time only.
More than ever, the Middle East has become a field for intervention of the major powers, in which their interests and those of their allies become tangled in a knot of contradictions. But for Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the result of these most recent conflicts has left these countries destroyed and divided, places where the only choice left to the populations is between the arbitrary rule of different militias and that of dictatorial or semi-dictatorial regimes. To this picture must be added the aggravation of the situation in Israel and the occupied territories and the radicalization of the repression carried out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which leaves no hopes for the Palestinians. In the Middle East, as soon as some wars come to an end, they only foreshadow the outlines of the conflicts to come.
The Nineteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has reelected Xi Jinping for a five-year term, triumphantly in a China that still claims to be communist. To judge by the commentary in the Western media, this is a triumph for the renewed General Secretary, at times compared to Mao Zedong, at other times to Deng Xiaoping, and even to both at once, when he is not designated as some kind of Red Emperor! Xi Jinping seems to have succeeded in reestablishing his authority over the different clans and factions whose rivalry for power at the central or regional levels were undermining the regime from inside. The future will tell the extent to which this authority is real or artificial.
Several recent affairs, which resulted in far-reaching scandals about corruption, have shone a weak ray of light on the factional struggles at the summit of the state. The affair of Bo Xilai, a member of the Central Politburo and former Secretary and party leader in Chongqing, one of the largest cities in the country, ended in his imprisonment for life in 2013. In his downfall, he dragged a certain number of other members of the ruling circles down with him.
The Bo Xilai affair was only the tip of the iceberg. The enrichment of the relatively wide privileged layer, made up of high-level bureaucrats in the state apparatus as well as the newly rich, constantly produces a disintegrating effect on the state apparatus of this gigantic country, with its population of 1.4 billion inhabitants.
A certain number of grand dignitaries of the Party or of the state apparatus run large cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Canton, and Shenzhen or regions that are the size of states. They have considerable political power, reinforced by the many links permanently forged between the ruling caste and business circles.
Given the weight of the state in economic life, the fortunes of Chinese millionaires and billionaires can built up their fortunes only if they benefit from support from and complicity with the highest levels of the state and the Party.
Despite the different origins of the Chinese state and of the Soviet state, the dislocation of the Soviet state during Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule is a permanent warning to the leaders of the Chinese state. The state apparatus could crumble very quickly due to the rivalries among those who precisely are supposed to defend its interests.
While it undergoes the corrosive effects of the rivalries between the clans of the state bureaucracy, the unity of this state is indispensable for the preservation of the collective interests of the ruling layer.
It is first of all indispensable against the lower classes, starting with a working class which has probably become the most numerous and most powerful one in the world, whether it labors in state enterprises or in the many large companies linked to the major Western corporations for wages five or ten times lower than those paid in Japan, the United States or Europe.
Unity is also indispensable against the great mass of peasants, whom the development of capitalism has quickly driven from the countryside and turned into impoverished people without rights living in the cities.
China is a social powder-keg, and its leaders are well aware of this fact. It is precisely this situation that makes a dictatorship necessary. The speculations of commentators about the respective roles of the Party and the state are nothing but smokescreens, especially since the ruling layer of the Party is the same as that of the state.
The apparent stability of the regime does not suppress class antagonisms. It cannot even hide the fact that “savage capitalism,” the bourgeoisie’s chase after wealth, and the many speculations, especially in real estate, are undermining an economy whose growth is at the mercy of a financial crash.
The Western media may hypocritically ponder about the future of democracy or public freedoms in China. Big Western capital, which is very interested in the evolution of China’s economic situation, entirely shares the fears of local rulers about the risk of social explosions. The references to “communism” mixed with virulent nationalism cannot hide social reality from the proletariat of this “workshop of the world” that China has become. They cannot hide the antagonism of interests between a privileged class that is growing spectacularly rich and a numerous working class concentrated in large workplaces.
Despite the regime’s dictatorship and socialist label, the reality of class relations will ultimately make its way into people’s consciousness.
The regime’s references to China’s rediscovered pride and to its rise into the ranks of the major powers also have their limits. A growing part of the Chinese working class is exploited, directly or indirectly, by big Western capital, whether U.S., Japanese, English or French. The “workshop of the world” is a subcontractor for the big Western corporations.
The originality of the Chinese state – which it shares with a few other countries that had once been colonies or semi-colonies like Vietnam and North Korea, or, to a certain extent, Cuba in the Castro years – is that it has allowed the country to save itself from the direct stranglehold of the big imperialist powers for a number of decades.
Before 1949, these powers had long reduced China to the status of an oppressed and humiliated semi-colony. The result of this was the Opium Wars, China’s de facto dismemberment under the rule of warlords, the system of concessions (the pieces of territory that the Western powers wrestled from China in order to turn them into commercial enclaves), and finally, the regime of Chiang Kai-shek with all its rottenness and incapacity to reform China’s social structures the slightest bit.
It was the great revolutionary wave of the peasantry during and immediately following World War Two that provided the regime of Mao and his successors with the social foundation that allowed China to resist the multiple attempts of imperialism to restore its grip over the country.
Despite the communist label that the radical Chinese nationalists used under Mao, which has increasingly softened under his successors, we have always considered the Chinese state to be a bourgeois state – an unusual bourgeois state born under particular conditions, but one which has never opened the perspective of overthrowing the bourgeoisie or of destroying the capitalist organization of society.
The state and state control over the economy – which were China’s instrument to defend the interests of its bourgeoisie against imperialism – have gradually become the main factor for China’s integration into the global imperialist order. This integration has not taken place through the intermediary of a classic comprador bourgeoisie, or at least not primarily so. The comprador bourgeoisie was to a great extent scattered throughout East Asia, from Taiwan to Singapore, without the Maoist regime seeking to destroy it.
It is the state apparatus itself that has served as an intermediary between the imperialist bourgeoisie and China, but on the basis of a relationship of forces more favorable to the development of the Chinese bourgeoisie than that which the comprador bourgeoisie was capable of in the time of Chiang Kai-shek.
In China, history followed an unusual path, one which integrated within the same social class the bourgeoisie that grew up within and surrounding the state apparatus and the one that remains of the old comprador bourgeoisie that has dominated the diaspora in Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong for some time, or that, after years spent in Mao’s labor camps, is in the process of recovering its social position. The links between these two social layers were never truly broken.
It is the Chinese state itself that partners with the Japanese, U.S., and German multinationals, by means of its state enterprises and state banks. This is essentially a form of subcontracting, but not only that: some of the conglomerates formed in this way can amount to association. Incidentally, it must be recalled that even in the imperialist countries, it is not the status of being a subcontractor that necessarily creates relations of dependence, but the differing amounts of capital held by one or the other.
The role of the Chinese state itself is ambivalent. It goes without saying that this ambivalence does not concern the Chinese state’s class nature – even the most retrograde pseudo-Trotskyists who once talked about China as a workers’ state no longer dare to classify it this way – but the relations that the Chinese state maintains with imperialism. The Chinese state represents the present and future interests of the Chinese bourgeoisie, allowing it to protect itself against big imperialist capital, even while taking on the role of a powerful factor for integration into the global market.
It is not only “national interest” and “the global ambitions of Xi Jinping” (which was Le Monde’s banner headline for August 6-7) that lie behind China’s expansionism. Behind the reconstruction of a modern variation of the “Silk Road” – the acquisition of ports from the Middle East to Greece – increasingly lie the interests of big Western corporations and their commodities for gaining access to global markets.
Another headline in the August 6-7 edition of Le Monde read: “Chongqing: Port Town on the Europe-Asia Railroad.” And the subhead was: “Along the ancient path of the Silk Road, the 11,000-kilometer Yu’Xin’Ou Railway carries freight as far as the German port of Duisburg.” But, as the same article observes, citing a Chinese authority, “around 60% of Foxconn’s and HP’s exports use this train. For the micro-computing manufacturers Acer and Asus, this figure varies between 20% and 30%.”
Some see this as the expression of Chinese imperialism. One must know what is meant by the term. China’s so-called “imperialism” is not a matter of capitalism having arrived at a certain stage of development (its senile phase, as Lenin put it), with a concentration of capital produced by the development of competitive capitalism itself, pushed to export its capital. The expansion of China is a specific historical phenomenon. China’s society and economy constitute an original form of combined development: a mixture of state economy and private economy, with a growing divide between ultra-modern cities and an underdeveloped countryside, between savage capitalism and socialist-sounding phraseology.
This original path – while it has allowed for the consolidation and enrichment of a middle bourgeoisie and the emergence of several red billionaires to the point where they can rival their Western counterparts – has not brought the exploited classes out of poverty. It has not even allowed the country to escape from under-development.
Must it be emphasized that, even if China has become the economy with the world’s second-highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it remains far behind Russia and some semi-developed countries like Mexico, and even well behind Turkmenistan, Botswana or Montenegro in terms of GDP per capita? China’s GDP per capita ranges from $7,000 to $12,000, according to various calculations. This compares to $45,000 for Germany, $44,000 for France and $53,000 for the United States. There is no “Chinese way” on the basis of decadent capitalism that would allow the poor countries to catch up to and surpass the developed imperialist countries. No more than there is a “Cuban way,” a “Vietnamese way,” or a … “North Korean way.”
China’s evolution illustrates, on its own enormous scale, the capacity of imperialism to integrate even regimes that once seemed to struggle against it in a radical way and which possess means that no other poor country has at its disposal, given their population and size.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from this brings us to the fundamental idea of the revolutionary communist current since Marx: the future of humanity will be decided in the struggle between the two fundamental classes of society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. There is no shortcut, no more than there exists some sort of loophole for an isolated country.
Responding to the skeptics of his own time, Trotsky wrote in The Transitional Program: “All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet ‘ripened’ for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only ‘ripened’; they have begun to get somewhat rotten.”
This decay of declining capitalism not only reveals itself in the economic sphere, with the crisis, unemployment, and destruction of humanity’s productive forces. It also takes shape in all forms of social life, including in international relations: local and regional wars in the Sahel region and in Sudan, and spreading throughout other African countries; floods of refugees not only from Latin America towards the United States or from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia towards Europe, but also from one African country towards another, or from Myanmar, which is underdeveloped and poor, towards Bangladesh, which is even poorer. One further sign of the moral and human decay of decadent capitalism is the increasing erection of barbed wire and walls separating peoples from one another.
The terrorist attacks themselves are the expression of this decay of capitalism, with the exception that, since in this case they touch the imperialist countries, they find even greater expression in Western public opinion, which is one of the institutions of the dominant bourgeoisie.
Trotsky concludes the passage cited above from The Transitional Program in the following way: “Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. The turn is now to the proletariat, i.e., chiefly to its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.”
A few months after these lines were written, humanity found itself plunged into the catastrophe of World War Two.
Several decades later, declining capitalism is sinking once again into barbarism. The lesson that Trotsky drew in his time from such an observation is still relevant: “The turn is now to the proletariat, i.e., chiefly to its revolutionary vanguard.” In other words, to the rebirth of revolutionary communist parties and a revolutionary International.