Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Climate Crisis: From Capital to Commune

capitalkills2

While most capitalists still deny that climate change is anything to do with them, increasingly the world is now facing up to the truth of climate change. Yet most don’t understand the cause and therefore cannot grasp the solution. The default position of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and climate science in general is that the problem is Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). And the solution is to make that abstract ‘man’ human again. We argue that ‘man’ is not to blame; it is capitalism. So we should at least be talking of the Capitalocene. Yet what is understood by capitalism today makes all the difference as to what we do about it. We argue that capitalism cannot be reformed. It has to be overthrown and replaced with the Commune.

Read More on Living Marxism 
https://livingmarxism.blog/2019/10/30/climate-crisis-from-capital-to-commune/

FROM THE CORONAVIRUS TO THE COMMUNE: HOW TO RESCUE HUMANITY FROM DESTRUCTION


Image result for capitalism collapse inevitable

The response to the coronavirus pandemic cannot be read in isolation of capitalism in terminal decline. In a sentence it is another example of nature biting back against its destruction at the hands of capitalism over centuries which is exploding today. So, a coronavirus that has jumped species from bats via other animals to humans is but one of the many breakdowns of capitalism in terminal crisis which needs to be traced back to its fundamental cause in order to eliminate it with a socialist revolution.

We can work back from the pandemic through immediate causes to intermediary causes all the way to the fundamental causes of terminal crisis so as to then discover the knowledge necessary to build a new society.

To illustrate this, the virus itself has probably been around in bats for a long time. Not as long as the viruses that lurk beneath the tundra that are about to be spread through methane bombs. But bats and humans had distinct ecologies, and co-existed with their viruses, until the late 19th century when global capitalism began to invade and eliminate human and other species boundaries. This has been turbocharged by the effects of extreme climate change forcing species migration from existing habitats.

All this this apparent chaos is not the function of globalization, overpopulation or neo-liberalism as such. They are symptomatic of deeper causes. Globalization is global capitalism, the effect of the rise of global imperialist exploitation of colonies and semi-colonies to plunder and extract human and physical resources to the point of ecological collapse.

Nor is overpopulation more than a symptom. It ignores the way in which people are distributed by imperialism – into overdeveloped rich nations and underdeveloped poor nations and regions. The demographic of the rich nations is of a declining white race. That of the poor nations is an impoverished, overcrowded and black and brown reserve army of cheap labour.

Nor is the so-called free market of ‘neo-liberalism’ more than a symptom of capitalism in its end days privatizing public assets and destroying the historic gains of the labour movement to restore profits. A futile effort when the conditions for profitability are being terminated by the capitalocene in extremis.

Capitalism in decline has exposed in all its hubris, many chaotic forces over which it has no control and which destroy the conditions for its own existence – in sum a functioning ecosphere. Taking off for planet B is a rich man’s Silicon Valley sci-fi fantasy.

Obviously, these same chaotic forces are manifest as pandemics, drought, famine, floods, nuclear meltdowns, ecological collapse, wars etc., and threaten the extinction of all life on the planet. Yet despite such forces being beyond capitalism’s control, they do not absolutely determine the fate of humans who have the capacity to free themselves from the chaos of dying capitalism.

What separates humans from other species is the capacity for reflective thought and planned action. This can be seen when politicians, representing capital-in-general, act to defend capitalism’s conditions of existence, i.e. a population of healthy workers and consumers necessary for profits.

Thus, China, Taiwan and Singapore used proactive authoritarian methods to lock down and screen population movements to mitigate if not stop the spread of the latest coronavirus. Other nations caught up with more ‘democratic’ pretensions, have waited on advice from the WHO and failed to proactively mitigate or contain the spread. Iran and India are theocratic dictatorships who put social control before public health.

What this illustrates is that capitalist state-led responses can go some way to mitigate pandemics that threaten capitalism’s existence. But at the same time, they cannot become truly collective, certainly not democratic, driven by an informed public based on the best science, unless they break with the interests of the capitalist ruling class which refuses to fund public science and a health system that can cope with let alone prevent pandemics.

This is evident in the failure of capitalist governments to respond adequately to climate science on the capitalocene. These responses will be too little, too late, uncoordinated, meet resistance from below, and be overwhelmed by the manifold accumulating effects of a collapsing capitalism world economy.

Therefore, the only hope of humans surviving this tidal wave of destruction is to eliminate the root cause, the deadly inertia of a dying capitalism with its hidebound institutions locked into the short-term profiteering of the tiny ruling class.

We can turn globalisation from imperialist destruction, into global unity of working and oppressed peoples. We can turn overpopulation from slums, disease and famine, into communes everywhere capable of building sustainable habitation. We can turn the chaotic capitalist market into its opposite, the economic and social plans of the communes, representing the democratic will of the people globally to build a new society in harmony with nature.

This is the logic of humanity rescuing itself from disaster. It needs to happen, and it is already happening now, in the migration of peoples from poor to rich countries;  the spontaneous uprisings against military dictatorships; the millions on the streets fighting for basic rights; the women and youth mobilizing against dying capitalism; but what is lacking it a clear vision of the new society and how to get there.

There is only one vision of a society beyond capitalism that has shown the way forward, and is capable of learning from the lessons of history. That is revolutionary socialism in the form of a revolutionary international party and program  representing and applied by workers of all nations. The party applies the program and tests it in the struggle to open the road to the socialist revolution from the most immediate demands to the overthrow of the capitalist system.

That is the urgent discussion we need now, today, because it will sort out those who are prepared to fight together for survival from those who represent the dying past, and release our amazing human potential to imagine and create a liberating future.

Reblogged from :

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Idlib: Victory to the Syrian Revolution!



 Image result for turkish troops in idlib


The Syrian revolution at the cross roads

Will the Syrian people succumb to the Assad/Putin counterrevolution to recover Idlib, or will they be victorious over Assad/Putin and create a new base for the revolution to take root and revive itself as part of the suppressed permanent revolution of the region? It is necessary to assess the balance of the forces of revolution and counter-revolution as they fight to the death. Into this mix we factor in the potential game-changer of Turkey objectively taking the side of the revolution.

On the side of the revolution we have the majority of the Syrian people who have stood against and been martyred by every assault from March 2011 to today. This includes the ‘civilians’ who remain resolute and the ‘moderate’ and ‘Islamic’ militias who despite being politically at odds, are in a military bloc against the regime. Internationally support is weak (never sufficient to properly arm and augment the militias), sporadic (US, Turkey and Arab states arming militias but at odds with the revolution) and ineffective (EU and Arab states attempts at diplomacy) and must be unless it actively takes the revolutionary side in the war against the regime. The question of whether Turkey’s military intervention measures up to that standard is currently being tested on the ground and in the air in Idlib.

On the side of the counter-revolution the Assad regime is backed by Russia. Without it, the regime would have been defeated in 2015 when the rebels held most of the country and several large cities including Aleppo and Idlib. The Arab states that suppressed the Arab Spring in their countries sided with the Assad regime but were incapable of defeating the Syrian revolution. Iran is a special case, as it was instrumental in engaging Russia to intervene in Syria. Therefore, in the absence of any major imperialist power siding with the revolution, Russia’s intervention swung the balance of forces decisively in favour of the counter-revolution.

Russia and Turkey strategic partners?

Until recently, Russia and Turkey have developed as strategic partners, with Russia supplying Turkey with missiles and long-term energy. Russia collaborated with Turkey’s campaign to create a buffer zone along its border with Syria to prevent the Kurd ‘terrorists’ from creating an autonomous Kurdish republic and strengthen the PKK’s fight for self-determination inside Turkey. Imperialist Russia and semi-colonial Turkey made a deal that served the interests of both, but at the expense of the Syrian Revolution. The Astana agreement expresses that compromise deal. Russia is mainly interested in destroying the revolution in the name of the ‘war on terror’. Turkey supports the revolution only insofar as it can be used against the Kurds to create a buffer zone. Iran was interested in further spreading its influence from Iraq to Palestine. But there was a contradiction at the heart of that deal.

Russia wants Turkey to use the moderate rebels in Idlib under its influence to destroy the Islamic “terrorists” while Turkey wants to use those same rebels to set aside their differences and help create a buffer zone against Kurd autonomy. Such a contradiction was suppressed while the Astana deal held with neither side pressing its main interest. This stalemate was broken when Russia decided to join with Assad to invade Idlib against the ‘terrorists’ and take it by force. Both sides accused the other of breaking the Astana deal while professing to want a further negotiated outcome.

Russia and Turkey explode the contradiction

But the die was cast. Putin and Assad were against the ‘terrorists’ surviving anywhere. Astana was never observed on the ground and the gains made by the regime backed by Russian and Iranian forces tore it up. Assad’s revenge as elsewhere in Syria, was the total destruction of towns and cities and the targeting of civilians, men women and children, schools and hospitals. This was to be the total destruction of the revolution. Turkey’s response was to defend its buffer zone, by invoking a humanitarian crisis of the million refugees camped on its borders, and defending its authority under Astana to maintain observation posts inside Idlib. This situation then quickly escalated within weeks from a few soldiers on the ground to masses of tanks and infantry, and then F-16s in the air.

Is Turkey’s military intervention on the side of the Syrian revolution? Certainly, the Syrian masses in Idlib and elsewhere declare it to be so. They are ecstatic in support of Turkey defending their lives and towns, schools and hospitals from destruction by the regime and Russian forces. Moreover, Erdogan has opened Turkey’s border to the West to allow Syrian refugees to gain access to the EU if they can. In this he is responding to the EU breaking its agreement to support Turkey for stopping the near 4 million Syrian refugees leaving for the EU. Objectively then, despite Erdogan’s overwhelming national interests, his intervention in Idlib is on the side of the revolution against counter-revolution.

Defeat Russia in a war with Turkey 

Revolutionaries who claim the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky must agree. We support the Syrian Revolution against the counter-revolution. The revolutionary people who refuse to live under Assad can make use of any support offered their cause, whether or not their long-term objectives with their allies are the same. The revolution must live to fight another day, just as the militias who surrendered to Assad in return for safe passage to (ultimately) Idlib.

Yet, in defending Turkey’s military intervention on the side of the revolution we do not agree with its bourgeois national pro-imperialism, its political regime, nor its oppression of the Kurds. And if the war escalates into a wider war between two main protagonists, Russia and Turkey, we take the side of the oppressed semi-colonial nation against the imperialist oppressor nation.

For a Socialist Union of the Middle East! 

We unconditionally take the side of the workers and poor farmers who are the life blood of the revolution. We call for a ceasefire and a workers’ and farmers’ government in Idlib supported by all the Arab masses, and defended by workers internationally.

But for this to succeed the workers of the Middle East, in particular of Turkey and Iran must overthrow their authoritarian regimes and take the leadership in the anti-imperialist fight, breaking with their imperialist masters and overthrowing their pro-imperialist bourgeois ruling classes.

We demand that the workers of Europe, and the other imperialist powers, fight to open their borders to migrants and refugees fleeing the exploitation and oppression of centuries, and build antifascist militias and workers councils capable of overthrowing their ruling classes, liberating the oppressed semi-colonies as part of the global socialist revolution, under the leadership of a new revolutionary communist international.

3 March 2020

Statement by the International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency (formerly the LCC)





Tuesday, February 11, 2020

IHUMĀTAO: FROM COLONY TO COMMUNE


Ihumatao
  Hikoi in support of the land occupation at Ihumātao, Auckland, Aotearoa/NZ

Ihumātao began as Māori land used for gardening. After British colonisation in the 1840s it also supplied the settlers in Auckland. But the Treaty was a fraud and Māori land presented a barrier to capitalist colonisation. In 1863 it was confiscated and the people driven off the land as the settlers went to war against resistance to land sales. From that point on Ihumātao was  swallowed up by Auckland as it burgeoned as the main entry point for Empire. In 1867 the colonial state sold the land to private owners, the Wallace family, who farmed it for generations until recently when it was sold on to Fletcher Building for new housing.  

In 2016 a protest occupation led by rangitahi (youth) demanded the land be returned to Iwi in opposition to agreements made by some kaumatua (elders) with Fletcher Building to keep the land in exchange for homes for Iwi. Trespass notices and threats of eviction drew massive support. Government stepped in to halt building, the Tainui King, Te Arikinui Kiingi Tūheitia intervened as a mediator, but to date there has been no settlement of the dispute.

Any settlement that falls short of the full return of the land to the Iwi will be a compromise that props up private property rights at the expense of the Iwi right to communally owned land. The purpose of this article is to explain why the fight for the return of communal land is more than a matter of historical justice for dispossessed Māori, but critical in re-uniting the people with the land and to bring an end to colonialism and the threat of human extinction.

Capitalism’s three foundation stones

Ihumātao signifies the collision of the colonial history of Aotearoa with Capitalism’s terminal crisis. The underlying contradiction between Maori communally owned land and land held as private property in the capitalist system is explosive. Colonisation introduced the three foundations stones of capitalism to Aotearoa. Marx called them the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Land, Labour and Capital. First, colonialism converts land from common ownership into private property where ownership allows the wealth of the land to be accumulated by the private owner. The land is not used unless it makes a profit (produces rent) by selling its product on the market. It cannot do so unless it can create ‘free’ labour and has access to capital.

Second, private property introduced under capitalist colonisation separated the people from the land. Separated from their own means of subsistence (nature) they were “free” to labour for the capitalist land owners for a wage. Third, capital as money is necessary to invest in production to buy the raw materials and employ wage labour to produce the commodities to sell in the market. Karl Marx was clear how this “Holy Trinity” worked in the settler colonies. He referred to the case of Mr Peel who brought his money to Perth, Australia, bought stolen land and employed landless labourers, only to find that they deserted their jobs and went to settle on land they occupied for themselves. There was then no way he could profit from their labour so he ended up as a land agent speculating in stolen land.

The contradiction between communal and private land is explosive because capitalist ownership of land allows the monopoly of a scarce resource in the hands of a minority while the majority are deprived of land for settlement and production. Today this issue has become critical because of capitalism’s destructiveness and the impact of climate change cannot be stopped unless land is returned to communal ownership for the use of all as part of reuniting the people with nature.

Private property vs communal ownership

This explains why both National and the Labour-led coalition are refusing to risk setting a precedent at Ihumātao that could then allow claims on private property as part of Treaty settlements. In 1840 the Crown was ready to promise Maori ownership of their land unless they willingly sold it, but in practice condoned forced sales and engaged in confiscations so that today only around 3% of Māori land remains. The Crown cannot return privately owned land to its original owners without destroying one of the foundation stones of capitalism – the private property rights.

That is why Maori leaders compromise with the Government in accepting the terms of Treaty settlements. Compromise with colonial regimes may be necessary at times for survival but it is important to understand what is at stake. Just as the land sellers of yesterday found themselves collaborating with Empire at a big cost to Māori development, today Iwi capitalists, such as the Tainui King and others Iwi leaders, compromise with global imperialism which is destroying nature and the survival of all of humanity.   

So, the conflict over Ihumātao is a test case over which form of land use will prevail in Aotearoa – that of land as private property introduced by the settlers, and land as communal property as the basis of a classless, communal society. The lessons of the colonial wars over land from the 1840s onward culminating in the invasion of Parihaka in the early 1880s makes this clear. Te Whiti rejected the privatisation of land because it was not for communal use but for profit. He thought that land should remain in communal ownership and that its produce be exchanged without the use of money. For him capitalism as represented by the market and money were evil intrusions into Māori society which must be resisted. Idealistically he believed that his non-violent protest would resolve the contradiction over land ownership between the two worlds.

Such a stand against the settler society by the Parihaka commune became a refuge for many of the former fighters in the land wars, including Titokowaro. This was seen, correctly, as a rebellion against the foundation stones of colonial capitalism. There was no way that the settlers would observe the Treaty and tolerate communal ownership of land. That would scupper the whole colonial enterprise and the racist doctrine of the ‘civilising mission’. It is this racist, colonial tradition that is kept alive today by private landowners, corporates like Fletchers, Federated Farmers, along with their bourgeois State, the Law, the Government, and we must include, today, the Iwi capitalists who benefit from Treaty settlement profits at the expense of their own people.

Apologists for private property

It is not sufficient however, to expose the historic capitalist class interests behind the privatisation of land, it is also necessary to expose those paid ideologues who weave fanciful stories about why land theft is part of the march of civilisation. There is a long history of settler story-telling that talks about the progress of white settler colonisation going back to Wakefield and Governor Grey. Of course, these individuals were, and are, cynical apologists for capitalism solving its problems in Britain (economic stagnation, unemployment and crime, to name the most important) by selling the idea that white settlement was a benefit for all humanity. It exported ‘civilisation’ to the ‘natives’ including an economic system held to be the most advanced in the ‘history of man’.

But isn’t it clear today that civilisation has yet to be tried, as Gandhi implied, and that what passed for it in 19th century Aotearoa was, as Te Whiti maintained, ‘evil’? The Treaty ‘settlement’ process has righted the ‘wrongs’ even at a tiny fraction of the value of the lost land. And hasn’t there been a Māori Renaissance and a healthy scepticism towards James Cook among others as benefactors of Māori?  Well, no. One cannot say that Māori became better off as beneficiaries of capitalism without using colonialist criteria. The celebration of White Settler Colonisation is still observed because it is contested terrain – specifically contested land rights.  

If we look at the work of contemporary writers on NZ colonial history, we can see most remain apologists for white settlement, subject to the usual provisos of course about capitalist ‘excesses’, or even more slippery, ‘human nature’. Let’s take one prominent example, James Belich, who made an international reputation with his books on the NZ Wars, and won some fame with the TV series that followed. In his early work Belich does much to dispel the colonisers’ myths that Māori were ‘inferior’ to White Settlers. For example, they would certainly have defeated the settlers in warfare without the help of imperialist troops. But in his later book Replenishing the Earth, The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939, Belich raises his sights and attempts to ‘replenish’ the British empires expansion in the colonial world as a ‘successful’ and therefore progressive extension of British capitalism.

Belich’s “Settler Revolution”

Belich sets out to prove that the British settler colonisation of other territories including Aotearoa was a ‘settler revolution’ that, because of its influence in creating the modern world, should be added to the other major revolutions, for example, the English (bourgeois) and Industrial Revolutions. He shows how the economic busts in Britain led to the export of settlers whose own economic activity in new lands led to further trade in commodities which fed new booms in Britain. Yet there is little new here that wasn’t understood by early British capitalists and their apologists such as Adam Smith. And it ignores Marx’s law of falling profits which drove the export of British surplus capital and people to new lands to establish capitalist production and create ‘super’ profits to restore those at home.

Sadly then, Belich’s “new explanation” of White Settlement as the ‘settler revolution’ is separated from the deeper history of capitalism as a global system. Inevitably, in the larger scheme of things, his ‘revolution’ was (and is) part of a global ‘counter-revolution’ that founded and expanded empire for profit at the expense of pre-capitalist peoples and the destruction of nature. This counter-revolution broke pre-capitalist peoples’ unity with nature and subjected them to capital’s drive to dehumanise  them and destroy nature. Not only in Aotearoa/NZ where the Treaty was always, and is still, a fraud, but right around the world where indigenous peoples remain oppressed and unfree. And where imperialism occupies and dominates, by ruling directly, or through their client states, most of humanity still pays a heavy price for the barbarity of capitalist ‘civilising mission’.

Add to that indictment, the most notorious case of white-settler colonisation, the founding of Zionist Israel, as if to express the pure Orientalist scorn for ‘uncivilised’ peoples, at the same time as the decolonisation struggles for independence were under way. That is why White Settler Colonisation stands everywhere as a memorial to the expansion of capitalism at the expense of nature and human freedom. The only thing to ‘celebrate’ about it is the realisation that out of the failures of previous struggles for self-determination, workers and oppressed people of every kind will continue that struggle to win their freedom by means of permanent revolution and the free association of socialist republics on a global scale.

Towards the Commune

It is evident the black heart of the colonial occupation of Aotearoa/NZ remains in the privatised land at Ihumātao. The communal land was stolen as part of the separation of Māori from their land and the creation of capitalist private property. But beyond the injustice and the cost to Māori over the generations, the fate of the land is emblematic of the future course of Aotearoa. If the land remains in private ownership or is ‘nationalised’ by the Auckland Council and the central government, it is not restored as communal land. A token settlement with Iwi elders, might claim to return it as Māori land. But we have seen what ‘Māori land’ under the Treaty settlement process means, it remains incorporated within capitalism, and does not meet the needs of most Māori while it elevates Iwi ‘authorities’ as a new Māori capitalist class.

Any compromise on the terms of colonialism by either Settler or Māori institutions that serve to protect private property, whether as a state reserve, or in trust to a compromised Iwi leadership, would leave Māori separated from communal ownership. They would suffer the same fate as Parihaka, without having the opportunity to follow Te Whiti’s example and fight to defend the land. The land would remain lost and so would the opportunity to demonstrate that communal land as a basis to contest and replace the ‘evil’ colonial system that over the centuries has come to the point of destroying nature and threatening human extinction.

What would Ihumātao mean if the stolen land was won back? It could combine Māori values of communal land with the needs of the wider working class to produce collectively rather than for private profit. The application of the knowledge and technology of pre-capitalist and capitalist society (all the result of workers labour) could  produce the embryo of a future post-capitalist society capable of restoring the unity between humans and nature. 

That is why the struggle for the return of private land as communal land thrusts at the very ‘heart of darkness’ of White Settler colonialism/imperialism, its economic interests and its political institutions and cultural values.  We need a social revolution against all these fronts to succeed in turning private property into communal property. And there is a great unifying cause that can make this happen – the global crisis of collapsing climate and nature’s revenge. If we are to make the changes necessary to slow down, mitigate and even stop climate change we need to overturn the foundation stones of capitalism.

Overturning the foundation stones

The first is the private ownership of land, because without it, and production for profit, the whole speculative edifice of capitalism would collapse. It would mean Māori, Pakeha and all other workers, along with working farmers, who are the huge majority and the producers of wealth, uniting around a political program to collectivise the land to feed the people sustainably as climate crisis hits. Their means of subsistence returned to them, workers and small farmers could then produce for need and not profit. Industry would be socialised so that its accumulated wealth becomes a fund for collective economic planning. Private banks would be socialised into a peoples’ bank to fund social production. The state’s defence of private property would collapse when workers and small farmers organised their own councils and militias. All this would be possible under new social relations that do not separate producers from the wealth they create when they are reunited with the land. But before that can happen the Commune needs to speak to the people.

Ihumātao can become the example that proves it is necessary to restore the land as communal property before we can completely change the rest of society. That we can build a new society based on communal ownership of all the essentials necessary to make a transition from capitalism to the commune. It could demonstrate that workers organised in collectives can decide democratically what resources are needed to meet the basic needs of the community, allocate them to production for those needs, and ensure that they are not destructive of nature. It can prove to workers and small businesses trapped by worsening economic crises, wars and climate collapse, of the necessity of transforming production, distribution and exchange to meet essential needs for food, housing, education, health and transport in Aotearoa, and to share locally, nationally and internationally in a world where the old order is dying and the new order is yet to be born. Only then would the Commune start to become the reality.

https://tinyurl.com/v8rt9jj Evan Poata-Smith (1996) “The Evolution of Contemporary Protest” pdf

Monday, February 10, 2020

France: How to defeat the ruling class!




Firefighters battle the CRS exposing class divide

The latest wave of strikes in France that has been building for at least two months threatens the Macron regime. Macron is facing a worsening economic crisis as France falls behind its main economic rivals, Germany, Russia and the US. It is in danger of further decline as an imperialist power if it does not extract more productivity or surplus-value from its workers. But each attack to increase the exploitation of the workers – against the 35-hour week, imposing the fuel tax and now raising the pension age – has met an increasing resistance from the unions and new social movements such as Yellow Vests. Clearly growing numbers of workers of all description, self-employed and exploited petty bourgeois, have the will and the capacity to refuse to pay for France’s capitalist crisis.
But has the crisis of the French ruling class created a workers’ movement sufficient to bring about a pre-revolutionary situation which poses the question of which class rules? We argue that the movement so far has failed to break decisively from the bureaucracy and the treacherous reformist parties, let alone create organs of independent workers power capable of staging an indefinite political general strike that poses the question of power. Despite the will and capacity to mount a general strike, workers organisations are still held back by the union bureaucracy, reformists and fake Trotskyist parties, and ultimately the absence of a revolutionary party and program capable of leading a political general strike to victory.
The Yellow Vests Social Movement
The Yellow Vests began as a spontaneous social movement against paying a new diesel tax that Macron imposed to fund France’s obligations to the Paris Climate Accord. It put the burden of the cost of climate change onto workers, self-employed and farmers, rather than the big capitalist polluters. Its spontaneity was dramatically expressed by protestors wearing the mandatory Yellow Vest kept in every car for any emergency.
The Yellow Vest program includes some democratic demands we certainly support, but most of the immediate demands are not transitional because they do not involve workers directly in fighting for them. For example the minimum wage begs the state to construct a poverty trap rather than motivating workers to get rid of the wage system. The program is a visionless list that assumes no fascist danger and no international collision between France, as part of the U.S.-led bloc, and the 21st century China-Russia imperialist bloc on the rise. Without a plan for taking power this program leaves the initiative in the hands of Capital. The question of class power is debased as that of ‘direct’ or ‘popular’ bourgeois democracy. They implicitly accept the bourgeois-parliamentary expropriation of the workers’ franchise, the dictatorship of Capital in the workplace and society at large, and the exploitation of the semi-colonies of the former French empire.
The Yellow Vests began, and survives, as a militant social movement as it was not under the influence of the reformist left parties and the top union bureaucrats. Most of the reformist and centrist left characterised it as a petty bourgeois populism inherently leaning towards the fascist right. As the Yellow Vests protests grew and were met by state forces causing many severe injuries, the class basis of the populism became clearer. Fascists were thrown out of demonstrations, and unelected petty bourgeois leaders stood up in place of “grass roots” democracy. The Yellow Vests list of demands became focused on popular citizen assemblies, a utopian petty bourgeois form of democracy, which of course Macron seized upon as a solution to get the movement off the streets. He failed, as the Yellow Vests are now joining in the strike movement kicked off by the pension “counter-reform” at which point they become part of the “balance of forces” much loved by reformist parties not least the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA – New Anti-capitalist Party), and subject to the same revolutionary criticism.
The New Anti-Capitalist Party
The influence of the reformists’ control over the labour movement is demonstrated by the NPA which has its roots in the reformist history of the post-WW2 Fourth International and is no longer associated with Trotskyism. It has some influence in the unions. It backs the RAJP and SNCF unions’ fight against Macron’s pension “counter-reform”. It reports that the January days of action drew increasing support and exhibited an “atmosphere of joy, combativeness and strong determination”. Further, hostility towards the “counter-reform” is growing as “two-thirds of the French people want the project withdrawn outright.” It argues on the one hand that “Macron has lost this political battle”, yet on the other that the mobilization of workers, social movements etc., have not created the “balance of forces sufficient to make Macron yield”. Yet all is not lost. There is a new realization of the disastrous consequences of the project awakening more resistance in the ports, energy, national railways, and Paris transport, that could alter that “balance of power”.
The language of reformism reeks of class compromise. Counter-reforms already imply reforms. There is no conception of the need to go beyond countering reforms to defend them. No mention of a general strike, only disparate sectorial actions culminating in a “national mobilization.” All the NPA has in mind in its program is forcing Macron to retract his attack on pensions. The growing balance forces as measured on the street will be no more than a bargaining chip to strengthen the hand of the labour bureaucracy in negotiations with ministers of state. So long as the revolutionary left does not actively contest the rule of the labour bureaucracy in government and the unions, the potential of the working class to mount a revolutionary defence of its interests will be stillborn.
The problem is that the crisis of revolutionary leadership means there is a vacancy for the position of a revolutionary party capable of fighting for a revolutionary program. We explain what we mean with the examples of the FLTI and GMI, each describing themselves as engaged in building a new international revolutionary leadership, yet demonstrate from opposing perspectives, centrist solutions to the workers struggle in France.
FLTI (International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction)
The FLTI[*explains that the cause of the current crisis is France’s loss of competitiveness with Germany. It sees the crisis as a part of a wider European crisis and that the French workers are in the “vanguard” of the European class struggle. But there is no mention of the wider inter-imperialist struggle between the US and Russia which has an impact on the further decline and potential break up of Europe.
The FLTI critiques reformist currents like NPA who do not see the recent strike waves as a “mass political struggle” of “class against class”, “paralyzing the economy”, and so fail to recognise that “the working class has taken France over”, and have “imposed” an independent General Strike “on the bureaucracy” which “calls into question who rules the country”. The FLTI claims Macron has lost control of workers because they broke from the bureaucracy and took control of the strikes themselves. The symbolic occupation of the CFDT union headquarters, cutting the electricity, “demonstrated their power and […] that the government can be defeated.”
So far, the FLTI’s analysis could have been written by syndicalists. Its political demands to build factory committees; co-ordinations of all local, regional and national struggles; self-defense committees; dissolve the police and state forces; free all fighters; culminating in a National Coordination for an Independent, Revolutionary General Strike to bring down Macron and the Fifth Republic, to nationalize factories, refineries, ports, industry, and banks under workers control, are all demands raised by syndicalists. And these are fine demands, but they don’t follow through to the class fight for state power. Even if it were true that the FLTI’s description of events were as advanced as it claims, it would have a duty to raise the full Transitional Program for a Workers’ Government. And even if events are not as far along the revolutionary road as they claim, the party of revolution would still be obliged by history and the Marxist method to raise a transitional program for a workers’ state!
Instead it calls for a “new [Paris] Commune” in all of France, and doesn’t mention Marx’s critique of the commune and those of Lenin and Trotsky, or the lessons they directed at the anarchists, syndicalists and other currents, about the need for a Marxist party to organise the insurrection to smash the bourgeois state. The FLTI fails completely to raise the critical question of how the General Strike, while posing the question of power, can organise for the insurrection, take power and impose a Workers Government to plan for socialism in a workers’ state.
‘Internationalizing’ a General Strike in France to a Revolutionary General Strike of all Europe hardly makes the French struggle a “bastion” of the “European and “world” working class.  If there is no program for the General Strike to succeed in France how can the EU General Strike bring down “Maastricht”? Nor can the question of power be solved in the French semi-colonies occupied by French troops. Instead of internationalism, the export of bourgeois syndicalism opens the road for counter-revolution.
We conclude that the FLTI poses the question of power in advance of the General Strike, but does not warn workers that a Political General Strike must end in revolution or counter-revolution. It does not challenge the trade union consciousness of workers, the populism that is rife in the social movements, nor the abstract idealism of youth, by putting forward a revolutionary program that spells out the need for political councils (soviets) and workers militias, and the split of the ranks from the officer corps, all of which are necessary for an insurrection and putting a Workers’ Government in power.
What takes the place of Macron if his government falls? What happens if the 5th Republic falls? Without the struggle for a Workers’ Government it will be the 6th Bourgeois Republic. Instead of challenging reformist consciousness with the Leninist Trotskyist program, the FLTI is sowing illusions that nationalization of bourgeois property is possible without the smashing of the state. The FLTI has no claim to call itself Leninist, Trotskyist or Internationalist. Moreover, without making the call for a new revolutionary international based on a Leninist/Trotskyist program, it is not even claiming to be a “fraction” of that future party.
GMI (International Marxist Group)
The GMI (French section of the Permanent Revolution Collective) analysis refutes the FLTI position that the workers have taken control of the unions in preparation for a General Strike. Moreover, the reformist left parties serve to “rescue” the union leaders. The GMI argues that the bureaucracy is still intact and there can be no successful preparation for a Political General Strike which does not involve the intervention in the unions of a revolutionary workers party which as yet “does not exist and must be built.” Partial and holding actions instead of mobilising resistance are designed to make workers’ pay for their pensions and lead to passivity and demoralization. The results of the ‘days of action’ are isolation and exhaustion of struggles. The GMI intervened in mass meetings to call for a General Strike to unite all the sectors including students and youth, but without success. The struggle is now in a downward phase because the rank and file did not win against the bureaucracy and the reformist political parties.
Unlike the FLTI which sees the workers in control of the unions, and a political general strike on the near horizon, the GMI sees its main task as building the revolutionary workers party that can intervene in the unions and lead the break with the bureaucracy. “All conscious workers, all revolutionary proletarian nuclei must unite in a single communist organization capable of facing union bureaucracies, determined to fight for class independence, class struggle, socialism.” Yet, its immediate perspective is to build for a “General Strike until withdrawal [of the pensions ‘reform’].” The need for a party is clear, but where is the Transitional Program to overcome the crisis of revolutionary leadership? What use is the revolutionary workers party that understands that the class struggle is raising spontaneous struggles to such a level that support for a Political General Strike is on the agenda, yet does not raise the full Transitional Program to go beyond the “withdrawal” of the pension reform to the seizure of power?
Any revolutionary workers party  has to say in advance that a Political General Strike cannot succeed without raising the class consciousness necessary to build workers’ councils and militias capable of taking advantage of the defeat of Macron and to go on to defeat the bourgeois state and install a Workers’ Government. Again, this is elementary Marxism after the Paris Commune and the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky. For a group that is part of the Permanent Revolution Collective, it betrays that theory/program with a centrist adaptation to the conception of what is ‘possible’ rather than what is ‘necessary’ to advance the revolution – the Transitional Program and Permanent Revolution!
Proletarian Demands are Transitional Demands:
Trotsky’s Fourth International was founded on the Transitional Program for socialist revolution, concentrating the lessons and method of advancing the socialist program, of developing the class consciousness of the workers and mobilizing for the fight for state power.  He fought every alien class force the workers’ movement experienced in his time and fought the expression of those forces when they took programmatic deviation forms, just as Marx, Engels and Lenin had.
“Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying. The Comintern has set out to follow the path of Social Democracy in an epoch of decaying capitalism: when, in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of the masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state.
The strategic task of the Fourth International lies not in reforming capitalism but in its overthrow. Its political aim is the conquest of power by the proletariat for the purpose of expropriating the bourgeoisie. However, the achievement of this strategic task is unthinkable without the most considered attention to all, even small and partial, questions of tactics. All sections of the proletariat, all its layers, occupations and groups should be drawn into the revolutionary movement. The present epoch is distinguished not for the fact that it frees the revolutionary party from day-to-day work but because it permits this work to be carried on indissolubly with the actual tasks of the revolution.
The Fourth International does not discard the program of the old “minimal” demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness. Indefatigably, it defends the democratic rights and social conquests of the workers. But it carries on this day-to-day work within the framework of the correct actual, that is, revolutionary perspective. Insofar as the old, partial, “minimal” demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the Fourth International advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old “minimal program” is superseded by the transitional program, the task of which lies in systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.”
Trotsky was very clear that the program was the means for developing proletarian leadership and raising the class consciousness of the working class (Leon Trotsky, “The Political Backwardness of American Workers (1940)“):
“…What can a revolutionary party do in this situation? In the first line give a clear honest picture of the objective situation, of the historic tasks which flow from this situation irrespective as to whether or not the workers are today ripe for this. Our tasks don’t depend on the mentality of the workers. The task is to develop the mentality of the workers. That is what the program should formulate and present before the advanced workers. Some will say: good, the program is a scientific program; it corresponds to the objective situation — but if the workers won’t accept this program, it will be sterile. Possibly. But this signifies only that the workers will be crushed since the crisis can’t be solved any other way but by the socialist revolution….”
 Stand with Trotsky!
For the ruling class their right to private property is congruent with the workers right to homelessness, to limited education, to unaffordable healthcare, to climate catastrophe. We reject the capitalist claim to superior bourgeois right!

                 Bourgeoisie has one right for workers…the right to a police bullet
Firefighter shot by police pulled to safety by workers under Red Flag
For the survival of the one productive class in society, the working class, the capitalists control of production and private accumulation of surplus value must be ended by the socialist revolution. The fight for socialist revolution begins with every minimum demand and advances through the intervention of vanguard and revolutionary workers to transitional demands and the conquest of all power by the workers and the oppressed. The program must be “indissoluble” (Trotsky), popularized at every opportunity by the workers’ revolutionary party.
End wage slavery! The minimum wage is a slave wage! We do not fight for a poverty trap!  We say make the bosses pay!
For Safe and Healthful Jobs For All With Living Wages!
Safe, healthy habitation for all! We must establish housing as a human right.
For massive investment in slum clearance under local workers’ council control!
Share the work!  Share the gains in productivity! For 28 hours work for 35 hours pay! For a Sliding Scale of wages and hours to spread the available work!
No to “externalities!” Make the bosses’ pay the tax burden of environmental remediation, not the drivers, truckers or small farmers! Those who profited from fouling the planet must pay now! Open the books! Accept no cries about bankruptcy! Profit is not a right superior to life! Collect the environmental debt the capitalists’ power and privilege rest on. 
The bosses want to work you till you die so the banks can save on pensions!
Defend and expand social medicine and public education!
For fully funded, nationalized education and healthcare under workers control!
Socialize big pharma and the whole for-profit healthcare industry without compensation to big shareholders.
Significantly reduce the retirement age! Pensions for all and more time to enjoy it! Because the workplace is not under workers control and as such imposes severe financial and physical stress on manual labor it robs life of six to seven years during labour’s production of goods and services.
Down with Social Chauvinism! Defend the Roma and all minority and immigrant populations from right wing, racist and fascist attacks! FREE ALL political and class struggle prisoners! Abolish the “anti-terrorism” laws, the rulers’ racist measures against immigrant rights! Full citizenship rights for all!
For a victorious Paris Commune the revolution must be international! Our class enemy is at home! For solidarity labor action with anti-imperialist forces in the semi-colonies and former colonies. Publish all of Paris’ secret treaties! Free Martinique and Guadeloupe and all the colonies! 
Down with Imperialism! Defeat French military interventions! 
Since 2001 France has intervened in AfghanistanIvory CoastChadLibyaSomaliaMaliCentral African RepublicSyria and Iraq.
Defeat Fascism! Against the danger of fascist preparations and anti-union and anti-immigrant terror, we need  troops and veterans to train workers militias, to make every picket line the front line and conduct comprehensive  fraternization and propaganda to win the troops to the workers’ cause! Police are not “uniformed service” workers but state brutalizers and killers! Abolish the police! Form neighborhood Committees!
Our class enemy is at home! Fight the class war at home not the imperialist wars abroad! Bring troops deployed abroad home now! For rank and file military committees! For rank and file election of officers! Arrest the capitalist state’s officers!
France Out Of NATO! Down With Imperialist Blocs East And West!
Down with the EU! For A Socialist United States Of Europe!
Build workers’ councils and self defence committees! Elect recallable delegates to a national workers’ council!
Down with the labour bureaucracy! For rank and file control of the unions!      Build strike committees and coordinate regionally and nationally! Prepare the political general strike to bring down the Government!
For a Workers’ Government based on Workers Councils and a Workers Militia to expropriate industry and banks! For a planned socialist economy under workers control!
For a Revolutionary Workers Party and a new Workers International, the World Party of Socialism, based on the method of the 1938 Transitional Program!

International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency (02/09/2020)

[*] We have corrected our mistaken reference to FLTI's French section 'Permanent Revolution' . The FLTI does not have a French section. Our apologies for the error.