Workers Unite! The historic task of workers is to overthrow rotten capitalism and fight for world socialism!
Millions of migrant workers forced to leave Delhi to go home to lockdown without jobs or money
The sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed global capitalism as irretrievably rotten. For decades revolutionaries have warned that capitalism had outlived its use by date, that it must destroy the forces of production, including the working class, to survive.
Capitalism could no longer produce profitably without destroying both the value of workers wages and of material wealth (variable and constant capital). From the end of the post-war boom in the 1970s and the beginning of the long structural crisis that still continues today, we saw workers resist all attempts by capitalism to restore the rate of profit back to the level of the post-war boom period.
The neo-liberal counter-revolution of the 1980s and 1990s, aimed at devaluing workers’ labour power and state owned assets to restore profits, failed. The reformist left claimed that the problem was not capitalism, but neo-liberalism itself, an aberration that could be cured by parliamentary democracy. At the same time, the Menshevik lefts of Stalinism engaged in destroying workers property in the Soviet Union to restore capitalism, and turned themselves with Marxist phrases into Eurocommunists or social democrats.
Then came the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, where overnight central banks abandoned the free market and bailed out the parasitic private banks. So the reformists turned their attention to the banks as the big bogey. Intellectual priests like Chomsky continued to preach that true capitalism had not been tried yet, so ‘vote Democrat’ to control the banks. They got Obama, who proved that the only capitalism that he could try was the same old capitalism with a black face.
After ten more years of stagnation capitalism was clearly in a terminal crisis. It had not recovered the rate of profit required to stimulate productive investment. It was still gambling its surplus capital in existing values and buying up its own shares to create fictitious capital (bidding up the prices of their own stocks with the taxpayers’ bailout monies). Despite years of austerity, military adventures abroad, and tame unions at home, workers still resisted the destruction of their labour power. And still the Mensheviks (reformist parties around the world and outfits like the DSA in the US that pretend to be ‘Marxists’) agree with academic Marxists that they could fix profits with re-branded forms of Keynesianism, i.e. deficit spending schemes.
Over the same period the threat of climate change became clearer. We warned that the continued destruction of nature by capitalism would lead to human extinction. There was now no question that capitalism was in a terminal crisis. Devaluing labour to restore profits cannot work when the human species is extinct.
Of course, the deniers blamed science for inventing a mythical Anthropocene. But after 600 years of plunder, nature’s fight back was now melting the polar ice, warming the oceans and killing thousands of species. The perpetrator was not the anonymous ‘man’ of the Anthropocene but the social relations of the capitalocene. There was no doubt then that capitalism had to go. Naturally, the social democratic left reinvented the green revolution while the Mensheviks debated how to build ‘new deal’ popular fronts to nationalise the big polluters. See Climate Crisis: From Capital to Commune.
Today, with the explosion of the pandemic we have further evidence that capitalism is so rotten that it destroys the conditions of its own existence. The capitalocene now allows viruses to jump species and wipe out millions of humans. Yet up pops the reformist left to cheer on the draconian measures taken by capitalist regimes to bail out the bankrupt bosses as the true coming of the bastard Keynes. Of course it has nothing to do with Keynes. The key to Keynes is that of boosting demand and consumption through full employment and state subsidies to wages. As Michael Roberts points out this is a bailout of capital much bigger than the Great Depression of the ‘30’s, and the subsidies going to workers are no more than the value of a miserable dole and many will not qualify for even that. Read Michael Roberts’ A war economy?
Keynes is now dead after a long run. Capital cannot afford to boost consumption in the working class if the conditions for profitability do not exist. In the current world situation China has become the leading imperialist power, not because it introduced Keynesian policies to impossibly escape the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (LTRPF), but because it has developed the most advanced state monopoly capitalist regime. Of course, to compete with China, the declining imperialist powers of the West must follow the same course.
Having abandoned Marx, the fake Trotskyists in the West are in a rapture over state spending as if Marx has risen from the grave as the corpse of Keynes. They throw around the words, ‘socialism’ and ‘revolution’, but never in conjunction. They find a niche in the market for their brand of revisionism – capitalism has not yet exhausted its capacity to develop the forces of production – it can find alternative sources of value, if value is required at all, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to restore profitability. Advised by themselves, of course. Read Roberts’ UNAM 3 – the robotic future.
Meanwhile, the bosses, fearing workers’ opposition to their draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, even the spectre of anti-capitalist uprisings, justify locking up the working class behind curfews, states of emergency and ‘lockdowns’ to maintain ‘social stability’. Once again, the gravediggers of the working class, the democratic and Menshevik left, are called upon by capitalism to suck workers into popular fronts with the bourgeoisie to strangle the development of workers revolution. All those who reject the LTRPF speak of crises as caused by a failure of neo-liberal policy settings. They end up in the bourgeois camp advising reforms that correct for the wrong policies and steer capitalism towards some peaceful, evolutionary socialism in the never-never.
For example, the Internationalist Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction (FLTI) for all its boisterous language of class war always fails to pose the question of power except rhetorically. It’s program never exceeds that of syndicalism or some half-way house like national workers’ assemblies. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), equally demonstrative in leading the revolutionary communist vanguard to the insurrection, invariably sells its literature in the shadow of the popular front; most recently in an open letter to the Workers Left Front (FIT) of Argentina, a bloc of fake Trotskyists acting as the left wing of the bourgeoisie in parliament (Congress). For Leninist Trotskyists, Menshevik/Pabloite groups such as these fail to pass the test of raising Trotsky’s ‘crowning’ demand that sums up the transitional program – The Workers’ Government.
However, the credibility of those who do not pose the question of power today, is shot among the townships, favelas, barrios, shanty towns and villages of the semi-colonial world where workers left to starve or beaten to death by bosses’ regimes left, right and centre, have nothing to lose in resisting these attacks. They face loss of jobs and forcible relocation where resistance is met by the force of police and military. Those who are outside the formal economy are even worse off with no means of support or defence. They are angry about their treatment and spontaneously resist the curfews, ‘lockdowns’, and evictions which condemn them to poverty and death.
Capitalism is rotten, the ruling class is divided over how to solve its terminal crisis, though it remains united in trying to make the workers and oppressed pay for their crisis. Workers locked down in disease, poverty and oppression will not die without a fight and rise up against their class enemy. The only element lacking to turn these uprisings everywhere into socialist revolutions, is an international Leninist-Trotskyist Party and Transitional Program.
Pandemic as compounding crisis
We understand Terminal Crisis to be the compounding of economic crash, climate change and pandemic. There are feedback loops among them, as the drive for profits to avoid or mitigate crashes exacerbates climate change which creates the conditions for pandemics. The pandemics then in turn compound the severity of the crash and accelerate the terminal crisis. It puts capitalism into the ICU without any PPE. Therefore, the program we need has to address all aspects of the crisis, their interactions, and their effects on the class struggle. In particular the impact they have upon the working class in its widest sense as the only class that can resolve the terminal crisis of rotten capitalism in the interests of workers and humanity as a whole. We cannot develop a scientific program for international revolution without such a theoretical starting point.
It is clear from the above that capitalism has failed to restore the conditions for profitability since the 1970’s: not by means of labour austerity, nor by the privatisation of resources. The effect of climate change has not helped as opposition to fossil fuels and capitalist growth dependent on them has strengthened in the working class and petty bourgeoisie. The explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic and the panic it has created is an opportunity for capitalism to break workers resistance with a counter-revolutionary offensive that can resolve the crisis for capitalism. But it also poses a threat to capital, a revolutionary coup de grace even. Yet for the revolution to defeat the counter-revolution, we must understand the enemy and not play into its hands.
If the exit from the terminal crisis is an historic defeat for the proletariat, it would be of the same order that Trotsky foresaw regarding the outcome of World War 2, an historic defeat for humanity. It would signal the arrival of a new society, no longer capitalist, but a Bonapartist dictatorship ruled by a new bureaucratic class. This outcome would render Marxism redundant and the proletariat no longer the historic agent of socialist revolution. Trotsky naturally refused to accept such a defeat, and fought to prevent it until his assasssination by Stalin’s agent. Had he survived the war, he would have continued to support the Soviet Union unconditionally against the capitalist imperialist powers, who always saw it as the main enemy. Today it is up to us, as Leninist Trotskyists, following the historic defeat of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism, to fight for the victory of the socialist revolution against that historic defeat of humanity! Read Leon Trotsky: The USSR in War (1939).
The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was a clear warning of capitalism’s inevitable death drive, the exhaustion of the failed neo-liberal free market counter-revolution, and a move toward the strong corporate state, the archetypal regime which characterises state monopoly capitalism in the epoch of imperialism. It is no accident then, that the success of China’s rapid rise as an imperial power was due to its centralised state monopoly capitalist form, and that this form has been increasingly adopted by Western imperialist powers to compete with China, albeit unevenly and chaotically due to the inertia of liberal democratic institutions and ideology. The political instability of bourgeois democratic rule has pushed capitalism towards Bonapartism and fascism, with the object of finally removing the proletariat as the revolutionary class from the world stage.
The current crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, is that opportunity. China’s state monopoly capitalist regime shows the way. First, 40 years (starting in 1978) of super-exploitation of its workers reintroduced the law of value to rescue the bureaucratic plan. This was the necessary platform for its emergence as an imperialist power spreading across the world. China rapidly caught up with the old imperialist powers. However, unlike the 2008 GFC when China rescued world capitalism and gave it a momentary breathing space, today it is not able to avoid the global crash itself, let alone carry the rest of the capitalist world through that crash.
What it did, however, was provide an example of how to prolong capitalism’s death agony for others to follow; the model of centralised power in the authoritarian monopoly capitalist state form. This enabled China’s ‘authoritarian’ method of containing and defeating the COVID-19 epidemic. It demonstrated to China’s imperialist rivals that in facing the terminal crisis of capital, bourgeois democracy was a luxury that they could not afford. China’s experience of other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS provided it with the confidence to apply the ‘authoritarian’ lockdown of Hubei province to isolate the virus at source. Similarly, other smaller monopoly state capitalist regimes in the region, including Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, were highly efficient in containing the spread of the epidemic based on their experience and central state interventions. The fact that Russia, a restored state monopoly capitalist regime failed to act quickly in the same manner, needs to be explained.
By comparison with China and the smaller Asian states mentioned above, the imperialist powers in the US bloc, and the EU as a whole, trapped in the chaos of the dysfunctional global market, responded to COVID-19 badly. The neo-liberal dogma stopped them from immediately adopting the Chinese model. They took some time to adjust to the prospect that the pandemic offered the opportunity to rescue bankrupt banks and corporates and at the same time afford to lockdown the working class without risking the collapse of capitalism. This was most clearly demonstrated in the reluctance of the two semi-Bonapartist powers in the West, the US and UK to lockdown workers, and shock the economy into a depression. Bolshonaro in Brazil went further, and still rejects COVID-19 as more than “a little flu”, demanding that workers return to work in ‘business as usual’.
Thus the most right-wing semi-Bonapartist regimes, the US and UK, were the last to move due to the heightened inter-imperialist political rivalry between the US and China. Trump’s incipient Bonapartism emerged in his first term as a desperate attempt to stop US decline in relation to China by rallying his populist ‘troops’ behind a white supremacist chauvinist racist national flag. This reached a hysterical high in his determination to blame China for the “Wuhan Flu” rather than congratulate it for slowing down its global spread!
All the EU ‘liberal democracies’, from Italy to the UK, in transition to Bonapartist regimes, were in varying degrees caught like startled clowns with their pants down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Totally unprepared by the anarchy of market forces for the onslaught of a virus carried by ships and planes loaded with middle-class tourists, they failed to screen, test and quarantine the spread of infection until it was too late. The panicked emergency control measures they rushed into place downloaded the whole cost of the pandemic onto the lives of working people already suffering from decades of declining public health and welfare provisions. While businesses got massive bailouts touted as in the ‘national interest’, the working people got mass sackings and ‘lockdowns’ and very little compensation for lost wages or other subsistence earnings.
As the pandemic spread to the semi-colonial world, its effects were even more chaotic and destructive of the lives of the working masses. Lagging behind the imperialist powers, but also subjected to middle-class international travellers carrying the virus, these semi-colonial countries, already in economic recession, were devastated. Iran had shown early what happens when a brutal clerical dictatorship already subjected to sanctions was prepared to sacrifice the people rather than risk the economy further. So, when Brazil, South Africa and India, to name only the most important cases, rush to catch-up with the virus, this means draconian curfews and lockdowns that force the masses into quarantine without jobs, income, adequate housing or the medical resources to prevent the spread of the virus.
Pandemic as opportunity to manage depression
This is how the COVID-19 pandemic spread, compounding the terminal crisis of capital. What opportunities did this offer the ruling class? There are those, not confined to Trump, who hold China responsible for the pandemic. Other online conspiracies claim that the virus was engineered by Chinese scientists as part of a biological warfare program. It is patently absurd. Previous corona viruses in Asia can be traced to the living conditions, travel of migrants and tourists or the habits of workers who augment their diet with wild animals sold in wet markets. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime may have a biological warfare program, but trade in wild animals for food is not part of it. This practice is illegal and the state tries to stamp it out. There are equally absurd conspiracies from the opposing camp that attribute the pandemic to US or Israeli bio-chemical warfare. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who thinks that one cause of the pandemic was the introduction of ‘gay marriage’, probably takes the prize.
More damaging to the workers internationally is the conspiracy put up by some on the self-professed Trotskyist left. For example the RCIT attributes the measures adopted by imperialist and semi-colonial powers that ‘lockdown’ the working masses to a deliberate counter-revolutionary strategy to finally defeat and destroy the revolutionary potential of the international proletariat. It labels those who do not share their view as the ‘lockdown left’ for accepting lockdowns as necessary to fight the pandemic and therefore siding with the bourgeoisie in shutting down business with huge loss of jobs. We reject this type of un-Marxist conspiracy theory since there is a good Marxist explanation for the adoption of these ‘lockdown’ measures to deal with the pandemic. See RCIT’s COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive.
The COVID-19 is not the first pandemic in the history of capitalism. Pandemics, like other threats to the health and safety of the working class, are caused by capitalism and pose a risk to its conditions of existence. The working class has struggled over centuries to force the capitalist class-in-general to introduce health and safety measures which benefit workers’ lives, even though it also benefits bosses’ profits. Of course individual capitalists always try to avoid the costs of these reforms, and in its terminal decline neo-liberal capitalism has succeeded in taking back many of these gains. This is reflected in the draconian attacks on public health as a short-term drain on falling profits during the neo-liberal counter-revolution. The response of the working class historically, so long as it is forced to work for capital to subsist, is to defend health and safety laws as matters of life and death.
In the current pandemic, health and safety principles demand the isolation of workers from conditions in the workplace and in public life that threaten their lives. At the same time it demands that workers resist measures in the name of ‘public health’ that leave them destitute in living conditions that exacerbate the pandemic. Therefore, Marxists do not reject public health ‘lockdowns’ on principle because of a loss of jobs and income. Instead we put the lives of workers first, and demand fully funded public health, healthy and safe living conditions in employment, and a living wage for employed and unemployed. Moreover, since capital in a terminal crisis of its own making cannot afford these reforms, we advance a transitional program to fight for workers to take control of their living conditions, which must take that struggle all the way to the overthrow of capitalist social relations.
The China model of combatting the pandemic did not impose unusually draconian controls over workers compared to the ones that bourgeois democratic regimes have themselves used under war-time ‘blitz’ conditions. The “authority” of the Chinese monopoly capital state is based on a ‘class’ social contract in which workers’ lives are protected so that capital can continue to exploit them. The Marxist program in that situation defends the democratic right of workers for life today, because that enables us to fight to overthrow the exploitative, oppressive and alienated social relations tomorrow.
It was the failure to impose the China solution when there was plenty of advance warning of a pandemic that left China’s imperialist rivals resorting to panicked, confused and draconian blanket curfews, economic shutdowns, and punitive lockdowns of the working people. This was the result of the chaos of the market, not a capitalist conspiracy.
The chaos was an expression of the fact that the ruling classes in the West were divided between those who resisted lockdown as damaging the economy, and those who recognised the need for a short, sharp shock to restore the conditions for profit. That is, to use the pandemic as an opportunity to induce and manage a depression to restore the rate of profit. This explains why the most rotten imperialist powers vacillated while the virus spread. Trump and Johnson both took the laissez faire view of parasitic speculative capital of allowing the virus to spread to create a ‘herd immunity’. That is, to let the market rip instead of let the market R.I.P. Both were overruled by productive capital fractions who recognised the compounding effects of the pandemic for the survival of capitalism. Yet in both the UK and the US the vulture capitalist fraction of the bourgeoisie championed by Trump and Johnson is still pushing for the return to ‘business as usual’ ahead of the shutdown of business and lockdown of workers. Trump openly rallies his fascist base against the lockdown state Governors, while Johnson allows ‘herd immunity’ to prevail by underfunding attempts to isolate and halt the pandemic.
This division in the ruling class explains why the semi-Bonapartist regimes in the West did not attempt to fight the pandemic and impose authoritarian shutdowns and lockdowns following the China model. Bonapartist rule has to dispense with bourgeois democracy to carry out its task of counter-revolution. But it can only dispense with democracy when it has the power to do so. These regimes were under pressure to increase surveillance and repression against the rise of militant workers’ movements. For example, Macron was in trouble getting the Yellow Vests and unions off the streets, and Boris Johnson too had a problem with a divided country and the threat of the breakup of Britain. It was the pandemic which induced the economic crash overnight that presented the semi-Bonapartists with the opportunity to attack workers to restore public order in the name of public health. Here was the opportunity to rescue capitalism from its terminal crisis as the supposed ‘cause’ rather than ‘symptom’.
The factions of the ruling class that most represented the interests of productive capital, that is capital-in-general, seized the time to use the state to induce and manage a depression to restore the conditions for the return to profitability. The analogy to war is apposite, as it was not the Great Depression but WWII that followed that destroyed the massive amounts of capital to create the conditions for a post-war boom. That is, it was war that cut costs at all costs; that destroyed capital value by getting rid of surplus fixed capital and drastically cutting the value of wages. Only by destroying sufficient amounts of surplus capital in this way were the conditions for a return to profitable production restored.
To replicate the conditions of depression and war these semi-Bonapartist regimes, have to remove the democratic barriers to more centralised state power in order to catch up with China. Thus the Western imperialist powers and their semi-colonial client states have seized on the pandemic as the opportunity to force the pace to rescue bankrupt banks and corporates, and to restructure production able to compete with China. They also forced their semi-colonial client states to seize the opportunity of the pandemic as the pretext to restructure their corrupt, crony dependent economies and simultaneously use the army to lock up the class enemy.
Marxists understand that this is the only course for the imperialist ruling classes facing the terminal crisis. Having failed to revive global capitalism by bailing out business in the GFC, the conditions for profitability were not restored and the global market stagnated. In desperation the declining imperialist powers began to retreat behind protectionist borders to save their national capitals. We saw the rise of autarchy, the centralised power of national state monopoly capital, which calls forth national leaders who personify national capital-in-general. Trump and Johnson are the most flamboyant personifications of Bonapartism today. The pandemic shocked this process into overdrive as the semi-Bonapartists realised that the state must step in to nationalise business in the name of capital-in-general and close the borders to rescue dying capitalism. This is ‘business as usual’ in the new normal.
Therefore, capitalism in terminal crisis, bankrupt, debt ridden, fearing the historic threat of a rising working class which refuses to pay for the terminal crisis, seizes the opportunity arising out of its own destruction of nature, as an escape route. But there is no way out. Its feeble attempt at counter-revolution is a black swan song, and will fail to bring it a new lease on life so long as revolutionaries seize their opportunity to act decisively to overthrow rotten capitalism and build survival socialism.
Transition from Terminal Crisis to Workers’ State
The transitional program to defeat capitalism’s opportunist counter revolution is based on the transitional method which applies the dialectic of the revolutionary party developing class consciousness of workers through their active subjective struggle to transform the objective situation from that of rotten capitalism into that of survival socialism. It begins with demands to change the immediate reality of a pandemic, itself the symptom of terminal crisis and climate change, which puts workers’ health and lives at stake, to defending their basic rights to life, to liberty and to health from bourgeois government attacks, and then on to the formation of organs of workers’ power to resist state power, and finally onto the political general strike and the socialist insurrection to smash the state and found the Workers’ and Oppressed Government.
The terminal crisis is first and foremost determined by capitalism’s inability to resolve its long-term Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (LTRPF.) Read Is the “World in Crisis” terminal? But there is no chance that the terminal crisis can be resolved even by a state-induced and managed depression. It cannot destroy enough value, constant and variable to allow a return to profitable production and a new period of rising accumulation. Why? Because the conditions for its existence are being destroyed by climate change and ecological destruction. These conditions are not external to capitalism, but internal. Capitalism is in the last analysis, a contradiction between society and nature that is embedded in capitalist social relations. It is the proletariat as a natural force of production (labour power) that is being destroyed and it is the proletariat as part of nature that resists that destruction that will bring capitalism to its end. That is why Marxists speak of capitalism destroying itself as its internal contradiction explodes and creates the conditions for its replacement by socialism.
Therefore, our transitional program recognises that there can be no solution to the terminal crisis of capitalism short of socialism. The program begins with the most immediate demands to allow the working class to survive today so that it can advance the struggle to overthrow rotten capitalism to allow the working class to survive tomorrow. There can be no backing off that objective, no half-way houses, no electoral deals. Either capitalism dies or we do.
Some of those immediate demands will vary depending on what is necessary to advance the class struggle in different countries. But as the struggle develops, so will the capacity of the working class to unite around internationalist socialist demands for organs of struggle, councils and militias, capable of splitting the ranks from the top brass in the army, initiating insurrection, and leading to the founding of Workers’ States and federations or unions of Workers’ states. Let’s look at what demands need to be raised in action programs that can be applied in this situation in the two major imperialist rivals, China and the US; and in the largest semi-colonies, Brazil, India and South Africa.
We start with China as it is the new imperialist power that is competing with the US for dominance of the world economy. As we have argued above, the characterisation of China as capitalist and imperialist is the key to understanding the objective world situation. FIrst, for historic reasons China evolved as the most advanced state monopoly capitalist regime. This explains its rapid rise as the No 2 imperialist power. Second, these factors determine its relationship with the other imperialist states, in particular the US, but also the semi-colonies, including those within its sphere of interest as members of BRICS; Brazil, India and South Africa. These relationships also explain the significance of China’s influence in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the case of China, the model used to control the spread of the pandemic, the lockdown and quarantine, stopped the increase in infection within two months. It went from a peak, to a decline, and then to stable management. But the cost was heavy for workers who lost their jobs, and the informal sector (over 50%) of workers who rely on casual work or street vending. It is too early to say if the impact on China’s economy will be much less than other countries as a result of its success in containing the virus. Nevertheless, the impending global crash could see China’s economy slump to well below the 6% GDP growth of recent years. This is already raising fears of job losses and of heavy state clampdowns on protests.
The immediate demands to meet workers’ needs at this point would be for massive state spending to create jobs, a living wage, adequate health and housing against the impact of further epidemics and the coming depression. Democratic demands would be for rights to free speech, association, labour strikes, independent unions, independent political parties, minority rights etc. We expect the CCP one party state to resist these immediate and democratic demands making it necessary for a struggle for workers control of their living conditions, health, habitation, education, welfare etc. This raises the socialist demands for workers councils and self-defence committees to overthrow the CCP regime and the bourgeois state, followed by the founding of a Workers’ Government and Workers’ State.
There is no fragment of the original Fourth International of Trotsky left in mainland China capable of raising even a reformist program. Socialist Action, the Chinese section of the newly formed International Socialist Alternative (ISA —the majority of the former Committee for a Workers International), claims to stand on an orthodox Trotskyist program. That is contestable. One can hold the view that the Chinese revolution of 1949 led to the creation of a Deformed Workers’ State (DWS), but to claim it remains so today is to break from Marxism. Deng Xiaoping reintroduced a limited market to overcome the stagnation of the bureaucratic plan in 1978 and the Party sanctioned the return to the law of value in determining prices in 1992. One cannot explain China’s return to the global market as a new imperialist power as the result of the bureaucratic plan in a DWS. Nevertheless, the ISA program for China is for a political revolution, rather than a socialist revolution, in perhaps the second most powerful imperialist nation, after the US.
When the ISA calls for the end to the CCP dictatorship, it means the overthrow of the CP leadership in a political revolution that puts the workers in control of the Party. While it is not possible to reject entirely the fact that the state control of the economy is ‘state capitalism’ for the ISA, this does not constitute the restoration of capitalism which requires private ownership of the means of production. Stretching reality to fit a dogma that state ownership cannot be capitalist, contradicts Trotsky’s statement that the path to the restoration of capitalism in workers states will most likely take the form of state capitalism. By that definition the class character of the state is determined by the social relations it defends. China is therefore ruled by a bureaucracy that is a collective capitalist ruling over a state capitalist economy. Read the ISA’s China’s dictatorship ignites massive coronavirus backlash.
The fact that this is an alternative route to state monopoly capitalism with such success explains why it is something the Western powers seek to emulate. The common denominator is state monopoly capitalism crowned by a Bonapartist head of state which must be overthrown by social revolution. The program of the ISA that calls for ‘political revolution’ in China plays into the hands of the Bonapartists in the West who point to the CCP as ‘authoritarian’ whilst they represent the democratic will of the people. Would-be Bonapartist Trump makes a great play of demonising China at every opportunity as a justification for his own power grab at home. Both Chinese and US workers are sucked into the rivalry between the two powers that could easily develop into war. Such a contradiction between the ISA program and objective reality is a counter-revolutionary travesty of Leninism-Trotskyism.
Leninist-Trotskyists must reach out to Chinese workers and raise the full Transitional Program based on the correct characterisation of the Chinese state and link immediate demands to democratic demands for freedom of expression, assembly, self-organisation, self-defence, and ultimately to socialist demands for the political general strike, workers militias and for socialist revolution. In its relations with rival imperialist states we are for the defeat of both sides and for workers to turn their guns on their respective ruling classes. In relation to the semi-colonies, we defend them in any war with China. The program has as its crowning objective the Workers’ Government to expropriate the means of production and capitalist property without compensation, putting nationalised land under workers control, and the replacement of the law of value with the socialist plan. And because there can be no socialism in one country we call for a Socialist Republic of China as part of an East Asian Federation of Socialist Republics! Read our January, 2012 “The Most Dangerous Class”: Chinese Workers and Farmers Confront Chinese Imperialism: For the Socialist Revolution! Draft statement for discussion.
We do not take Trump’s claim seriously, that because the COVID-19 came from China and arrived in the USA, China must take the blame. Even Trump’s political rivals at home reject this on the basis that the US failed to agree to jointly study the corona viruses in China, and failed to recognise China’s rapid containment of the COVID-19 epidemic. See Breaking With China Is Exactly the Wrong Answer – The Atlantic.
While this is true, Marxists do not separate the corona virus from the historic vector for viruses that is capitalism itself. Capitalism has a long history of introducing its viruses into the ‘new world’ including its early wars against China. US imperialism played a starring role in creating the conditions for corona viruses, notably in its support of the nationalists in the long civil war against the CCP that ended in the 1949 Revolution. And since then, as part of the Cold War against communism, the US has tried to ‘quarantine’ China against the spread of the Red Menace.
It turns out that the viruses that capitalism introduced to the ‘new world’ are coming home to roost in the USA where the global contradictions of dying capitalism are concentrated and centralised and ready to explode. The Terminal crisis begins and ends in the USA. Meanwhile the pandemic which it refuses to take responsibility for, accelerates the terminal crisis, and gives China an opening to take the global leadership from the US. Read the Guardian’s US awol from world stage as China tries on global leadership for size.
The rush to Bonapartism in the West to compete with China’s ascendency is most evident in the US which has the most to lose. If Trump is re-elected we can expect a further grab for power that will not stop at Bonapartism but descend into the abyss of fascism. It will meet China’s economic power with military power in local and regional wars where the two blocs compete for control of what remains of the earth’s natural resources. Any of these wars can easily end in a catastrophic global war.
For the International Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (ILTT), US imperialism in decline expresses the fundamental contradiction between dying capitalism and nature in extremis. Everywhere, the US is riven by its extreme effects. Our action program for the US captures this exploding global contradiction manifested in the biggest and most rotten imperialism of all. Our rivals lack this perspective of the US because they are tainted by social imperialism or its flipside, national Trotskyism, that blinds them to that reality. Read Russia, China, and the Unfinished Permanent Revolution.
Our action program for the US, COVID-19 Pandemic and Capitalist Economic Crisis: A Class Struggle Workers Action Program, states:
“ The post-WWII U.S. hegemony of the last 70 years, arising from the redivision of the capitalist world after the devastation of the second inter-imperialist world war and built off of the super-profit accumulation from the exploitation of the semi-colonies/colonies, is coming to an end. American capitalism was sustained by a capitalist ideology rooted in the middle class and infecting large swaths of the working class. In particular, it was the labor aristocracy and bureaucracy who directly benefited from the imperialist profit-grabbing and who in unions such as the UAW, engaged in anti-China chauvinism rather than the international class struggle needed as American plants were closed and jobs moved offshore by Wall Street for cheaper labor. Down with anti-Chinese chauvinism and ‘Buy American’ protectionism!!Anti-Chinese chauvinism dovetails with Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Latin American prejudice campaigns! These blame games are the harbingers of fascism, the latent political content of the Make America Great (White!) Again campaign.”
And the material basis of this social chauvinism/imperialism is retailed in the unions and the Democratic Party:
“The pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy presided over the decimation of the unions as they pushed the team management schemes that tied workers to management on the shop floor. This class collaboration was historically prepared in the political sphere binding the unions to the capitalist Democratic Party, robbing the working class of both its political independence and the ability to use class struggle methods to defend and advance the historic gains and interests of our class. Down with labor/management peace schemes! For class struggle to defeat anti-labor laws such as Taft-Hartley! Defeat the Popular Front with the capitalist parties! We fight for the political independence of the working class.”
And as rotting capitalism collapses in on itself in the US where Trump with Republican backing cannot solve the terminal crisis, nor China’s challenge for hegemony, without exposing the bankruptcy of capitalist rule, all this makes it clear that world socialism’s time has come.
“The U.S. is number one in the number of COVID-19 cases, due to the deliberate criminal neglect of the Trump administration and the Democratic and Republican Congress. And the death rate is rising. It was the pandemic and the economic impact that tipped the world capitalist economy into turmoil, into a crisis that was already brewing as the capitalists have been unable to restore their rate of profit since the economic crisis of 2008, despite the working class being driven yet further into poverty. The dominance of U.S. imperialism on the world stage is faltering, as the U.S. is not able to turn on a dime as it did in WWII to fight the war on COVID-19. This is due to the deindustrialization under the ‘logic of globalization’ (imperialism). The supply chains trace back to areas in China closed by COVID-19. And China itself is a competing, rising imperialist power challenging U.S. hegemony. Only under rational, cooperative, centralized social economic planning on a world scale, a socialist world economy, can pandemics of this magnitude be effectively contained or the looming catastrophe of climate change be halted and reversed. And the working class is the only social class capable of democratically building and managing such an economy. The capitalist ruling classes and governments, the defenders of capitalism, have proven themselves utterly bankrupt as stewards and rulers of society.”
Brazil’s historic role as a semi-colony in the capitalist world economy determines its economy and politics. Once dominated by US imperialism it is now caught up in the rivalry between declining US imperialism and rising Chinese imperialism over control of energy and other basic resources. The Brazilian ruling class is also divided by this rivalry as ‘junior partners’ in sharing the surplus value pumped out by both imperialist powers. China as the most advanced state monopoly imperialist regime is extracting what remains of Brazil’s natural resources to produce superprofits. The bourgeois fraction associated with China’s ventures has built up China as Brazil’s No 1 trading partner, joined BRICS, and signed off on joint venture energy and infrastructure projects. Politically it is represented by the Workers Party (PT) popular front until the rise of Bolsonaro. As elsewhere where it invests, China presents it’s imperialist relationship with its partners as “win-win” venture capitalism.
A second bourgeois faction is aligned to US imperialism sharing in its investments and is associated with the rapacious US policy of Trump ‘vulture capitalism’ that quarries nature to death in order to squeeze another decade out of the earth to arrest US terminal decline. The bourgeois fractions that partner with the US include the most backward that still live with a white settler mentality as if defending the frontier of civilisation. They are the big landowners, the parasitic financiers who want to privatise all state assets, and the small bourgeoisie who want to destroy the nature reserves and kick the indigenous people out of the Amazon. One section of the army command that aligns with these interests backs these policies. They all joined in the US influenced Bolsonaro ‘coup’ against the PT.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of Bolsonaro’s ability to rule Brazil in the interests of the US fraction only. He does not have majority support and has backed off much of his radical slash and burn of the welfare system and privatisation of state owned corporations. But his crazy “little flu” stand on the pandemic has put him offside not only with most people, but with most of the state governors who are imposing lockdowns, and many bourgeois and military figures. This compounded crisis has disqualified Bolsonaro ruling as a Bonaparte, strutting above the classes and claiming to represent the people. Now he is a buffoon whose power has been quietly transferred to the army command which will try to find a new candidate to fill the vacancy for a Bonapartist figurehead.
For the ILTT, the bankruptcy and instability of the Brazilian ruling class is evidence that semi-colonial capitalism cannot solve the terminal crisis of capitalism. Only the revolutionary working class can solve this crisis by overthrowing capitalism and building a socialist world.
The instability of the Bolsonaro government, the accusations and disputes between sectors of the bourgeoisie, the attacks it has been suffering from the media are consequences of the enormous political, economic and social crisis of the capitalist chaos that we have arrived at. The reformist left that wants Bolsonaro’s downfall via impeachment, with an alliance with bourgeois sectors, inside the capitalist system, only affirms their reformism and promises that they can improve capitalism. You can not!
All they will do is to feed fascism, the only way for the bourgeoisie to “resolve” the crisis.
Workers, General Strike to guarantee social isolation, overthrow Bolsonaro and expropriate hospitals, factories and banks and take actions to fight the epidemic and the economic crisis! In the face of capitalist chaos, humanity requires socialism in order to survive!
Bolsonaro is unlikely to sustain himself for long. The tanks on the street will not be to guarantee isolation and contain the pandemic, but to ensure that workers pay the price of the crisis with their blood! Down with the reformist left that ties us to the bourgeoisie and illusions in capitalism!
The Popular Front is paving the way for fascism!
The bourgeoisie cannot escape this crisis without attacking the working class. The reformist and traitorous left like the PT (Workers Party) that joins bourgeois sectors and the reactionary media Rede Globo to create illusions in capitalism and supporting bundles of public money to save banks and large companies, are paving the way for dictatorship and fascism, because that is the only real way out for the bourgeoisie to make workers pay the price of the crisis.
Time for workers to break out of reformism!
For a revolutionary party and for workers organized in committees to take control measures against the epidemic and the economic crisis, taking the factories and expropriating the bourgeoisie!
No public money for banks and large companies! Money for workers and to save lives!
The pandemic is a catalyst for a depression in the world economy that has already been announced by the flustered economists of academia. Bolsonaro’s government is yet another, after Dilma’s, which is unable to resist the terminal crisis of capitalism.
Doria, Caiado, Rede Globo, army generals and all bourgeois sectors rising against Bolsonaro are only concerned with how to maintain “stability” at a time when capitalism needs to allocate public money to save banks and large companies at the expense of the blood of the working class!
Bolsonaro mobilized the middle class with rallies all over the country. Bourgeois sectors, Globo (major corporate media), army high command and politicians in congress mobilizing against Bolsonaro. We are on the brink of fascism with a coup or civil war.
Unions, trade unions, left-wing parties that continue to join with the sectors of the bourgeoisie to create illusions, that there is a way out of the crisis inside capitalism, leaving the working class in their passivity, attests to their betrayal and paves the way for fascism.
It is necessary for the workers’ organizations, their unions and central to mobilize the class from the base, with committees by local work for the general strike and for a revolutionary and socialist outcome out of this crisis, expropriating the bourgeoisie and the banks, with a workers’ government!
In the face of capitalist chaos, we need socialism to survive!
We urgently need a revolutionary workers’ party to say what is necessary: to end capitalism!
The current chaos must serve as an awareness that the capitalist system is the cause of economic crises, wars and pandemics!
Lenin during the civil war in 1919 said that typhus was laying low the Red Army and holding back the development of socialism!
Fight for a working class government based on workers’ councils and a working-class militia to carry out the revolutionary reorganization of a socialist society!
Build workers’ “crisis committees”, build a working class movement to take control of this crisis, to nationalize all the big banks and big industries without a penny of compensation for the bourgeoisie, under democratic control of the workers!
We need national assemblies of workers deputies to centralize social planning to determine who should work, under what conditions, provide safety equipment and what should be produced and where it should be distributed!
No money to save the failed bourgeoisie! Rescue package for workers and healthcare!
Defeat the reformist and traitorous left that creates illusions in this failed system and tries to manage the capitalist crisis!
India is the richest and most populous semi-colony in the world, with a national bourgeoisie divided into two main political fractions, the secular Western-oriented Congress Party, and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) an extreme Hindu nationalist party under Prime Minister Modi. Modi has promoted a Hindutva (Hindu fascist) movement to create a one party state where he, as a jumped up Bonapartist, claims to rule all India. He looks to China for economic cooperation, but at the same time fraternises with Trump. Though India is a member of the BRICS, it fears China’s growing influence in Asia and does not participate in the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Therefore Modi’s regime is caught in an impasse between the two major imperialist powers which both download their costs of the global crisis onto India. He has no option but to internalise the crisis by staging adventures such as his re-partition of Kashmir, and reviving the internal ‘partitions’ of caste, religion and nationalism to pass on the costs of the crisis to the working masses. He used constitutional reform to create a gulf between the Hindus and Muslims second only to the partition of 1947. This creates an internal partition which denies Muslim citizenship rights and fans Hindu mob violence to turn Muslims into stateless persons. The massive protests against this racist mobilisation drew big crowds onto the streets and bloody fights between Hindus and Muslims. Of course, there is no effective political opposition to the BJP from the liberal bourgeoisie of the Congress Party, nor the reformist Communist Party (CPI) which forms a popular front with the Congress Party to provide cover for Modi’s movement towards fascism.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic added another dimension to India’s economic crisis. Even while Modi was raising an internal partition against Mulsims he was denying the existence of the threat of a pandemic. His method of dealing with it was the opposite of that of China. The Government ignored the threat of the pandemic for months and then rushed through an emergency 21 day lockdown with four hours notice. This threw millions of migrant workers out of their informal jobs and forced them to walk long distances to their home villages. As a result many millions, hounded by the police and military, were displaced, quarantined under a curfew and exposed to the virus.
In this chaotic situation, the Transitional Program must be used to reverse and overcome these national and sectarian partitions between workers and fuse them into one international united proletariat!
Immediate demands of workers are for democratic rights to health and safety, and to mobilise to break the curfew/quarantine which isolates and traps workers so they cannot organise to fight for jobs, wages etc. Under the current state emergency where the police are deployed to repress workers who break the curfew, these immediate demands for workers to organise to meet their most pressing needs must rapidly escalate into demands for self-organisation and self-defence that will in turn trigger socialist demands for the seizure of power. Only the transition to power can rescue workers from destruction at the hands of fascism!
The only party that argues for the Transitional Method and Program in the Trotskyist tradition is the WSP (Workers Socialist Party of India). It’s aim is to rebuild the 4th International in the tradition of the short-lived Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI) before it capitulated to the Pabloism of the Fourth International after WW2. Its ultimate objective is to restore the unity of the South Asian region, destroyed by Partition, to create a Socialist Federation of South Asia.
The WSP recognises that the crisis in India is extreme and developing rapidly so there is a short step from the most immediate to more advanced socialist demands and this was expressed initially in their calls to workers to break the curfew and occupy the streets. However, since the displacement of millions of working people returning home and the deploying of the police to attack those who break the lockdown, the WSP no longer demands mass demonstrations, but rather the formation of workers committees that can organise to prepare for workers’ organs of power, the fall of the Government, and the installation of a Workers’ Government and socialist plan.
“Corona pandemic has taken over our world by surprise and fear. Countries, one after the other, are falling to it’s deadly trap. There is tragic devastation- deaths, illness and economic depression, and even more than that- the widespread scare and fear. Amazingly, this is happening in the 21st century- in the era of computers and robotic science, in the era of abundance of resources and immense proliferation of all material forces.
To be sure, the virus itself is no pandemic. It is nothing more than any other virus. What has made it deadly, is the inability of our generation, first to foresee it’s advent, then to prevent it’s development, then to control its spread and finally to counter it with an antidote. To be short, there has been a whole series of failure after failure, from beginning to the end, that has made the virus so deadly.
Needless to say that these failures are the failures of capitalism. They are failures of capitalism in as much as for long they have continued to accumulate inside it’s belly before the final explosion. Capitalism has not only failed to develop the human cognizance to answer the challenges of contemporary times but has itself become the chief hurdle to the development of human wisdom and intelligence. It must come as no surprise to anyone who keeps even the least pace at the world around them that the profit orientation of capitalism has turned all resources- human and natural- away from the socially driven research and innovation in science and technology. Since long back, profits have become central to all scientific development and research.
Division of the world and it’s resources into rival nation-states, ruled by nationally organised gangs of capitalists and profiteers, has immensely impeded the evolution of viable and effective global strategies to counter these challenges. Capitalist national states, the regulators of all economic life and the chief defenders of profits and private property ensuing from them, that still keep our planet divided into rival territories, have been the main roadblocks to barricade and retard the development of science and knowledge as a whole.
Their austerity programs for social expenditure, that go hand in hand with huge military budgets allocated for upkeep of armed forces and piling up weapons of mass destruction to damage and destroy each other, the worst hit was public education and health. They have retarded human cognizance, knowledge and wisdom, pushing it to a level where it is rendered completely unable to respond to the challenges of our times. These sectarian state partitions, prevented the world from rising in time in unison against the coming pandemic having global dimensions. To the global spread of the disease, the answer was too little and too late.
When Covid-19 corona virus first appeared in a Wuhan market, the callous Chinese bureaucracy focussed upon suppressing the news till there was a huge outbreak of the disease going beyond all control. While Chinese cities kept falling to the outbreak, other countries remained in slumber till they got their own dose. Disastrous virus spread has come on the back of the scientific myopia of ruling elites and the callousness of their national governments alongside their fatal failure to see the spectacularly foreseeable.
Corona is no natural epidemic as is popularly perceived. It is man made disaster- a disaster emerging out of the failure of our generation completely disarmed by capitalism- materially and intellectually. Even now, the minimal efforts being advanced by the sectarian national states, rooted in turn in private property and oriented to profits, with a very backward corresponding consciousness, are abysmally insufficient to tackle the dreadful virus spread. No effective war upon the challenges like Covid-19 is possible on the outworn basis of capitalism. Only a socialist unification of the world would present us with the opportunity and arm us fully for the first time in history, to rise up to the challenges of our era.
After zero response to corona spread for more than two months which proved fatal, the perplexed Modi government has rushed recklessly for a countrywide curfew, an insane surgical strike upon billions of working people, again! Not caring a hoot for or respecting any law, the police are beating everyone found moving. There are off the record orders for this indiscriminate brutal repression.Working people must fight it back! During the curfew, the economic-political situation is deteriorating so fast that after 21 days, if Modi wants, he will not be able to finish it. He will move it forward and finally call the army for suppression!
The only effective way to fight and avoid Corona epidemic is to take over not only all hospital and pharmaceutical companies, but also banquet halls, sairagāhōṁ, clubs and hotels.
It is certain that the capitalist government of the capitalists will not do this. So, with the help of crores (crore = 10 million) of working people, the working class should immediately take over the government as well as the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies!
WSP informs us that these workers’ committees will be the basis for organising the working class organs of power such as defence committees, making appeals to the ranks of the armed forces to disobey orders and join the workers committees, and to stage the insurrection and form a Workers’ Government!
(e) SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa today is a living example of a semi-colony that cannot escape the clutches of imperialism short of a socialist revolution. Some of its socialist intellectuals claim it is sub-imperialist but this is a pipe dream. Its attempts at national liberation were aborted by imperialism co-opting the ANC and its military wing so that the long overdue end of apartheid would peacefully transition via ‘truth and reconciliation’ into the Republic today ruled over by a comprador Black Bourgeosie. Today these one-time institutions of national liberation have turned into institutions of class rule on behalf of imperialism to oversee the exploitation and oppression of the working people. South Africa’s mineral and agricultural wealth produced by its mainly Black proletariat is siphoned off by imperialism, in particular UK, US and Chinese imperialism.
The conversion of the ANC from national liberator to national oppressor was not quite total. The national liberation struggle of the ANC was led by the SACP, a Stalinist party whose objective was to create a republic with its own ‘road to socialism’ that remained capitalist but aligned as an ally in defence of the Soviet Union. It was no accident that it was the demise of the Soviet Union that allowed the ANC and the white ruling class to compromise on sharing power in the post-apartheid capitalist republic. The ANC ‘Freedom Charter’ was now a relic used as a fig leaf over its pact with the imperialists. Since 1994 the rise of a Black bourgeoisie in business with the white bourgeoisie oversaw the neo-liberal counter-revolution in which the working masses have suffered increasing poverty and misery in the mines, on the land, and in the reserve army of labour.
The ANC affiliated COSATU unions subordinated the working class under these conditions of worsening exploitation in the service of imperialism which now included the growing influence of China. South Africa joined the BRICS and welcomed Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the economy.
The massacre at Marikana in 2012 marked a turning-point when widespread rank and file disillusionment with the ANC and COSATU saw moves on the part of a number of unions to break from COSATU. The metalworkers union NUMSA broke from the ANC and SACP in 2013 and called for a new workers party. It was expelled from COSATU in 2014. Since then it has rejected other left parties like the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) and WASP (Workers and Socialist Party – a section of the ISA – International Socialist Alternative.) At the time our tendency critiqued NUMSA for remaining trapped in illusions in the reformist Freedom Charter, when that could only degenerate into a ‘Red’ bourgeois “South African road to ‘market’ socialism” under subordination to imperialist China.
The founding of the ‘workers party’ that NUMSA called for in 2013 came to fruition in April, 2019, when the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP) was formed on a ‘Marxist-leninist’ program by mobilising outside parliament. But the content of its program remains the Stalinist two-stage road to socialism in which the first stage is accomplished in the bourgeois parliament. Yet in the 2019 general election the party scored less than 15,000 votes nationally, surely a strong temptation to join popular fronts in future elections. So it was no surprise that the new party was hailed by the reformist left including the fake-Trotskyist WASP and Pabloite Brazilian PT, further signs of its Stalinist/Menshevik heritage. And even the Spartacist splinter group, the ‘Internationalist’ was prepared to give the SRWP ‘critical support’, no doubt in the hope that its untested program would be steered by the Chinese “deformed workers’ state”, into a ‘win-win’ deal for workers.
Our tendency sees the SRWP entering the political arena as a reformist party at a critical time with a stageist Stalinist/Maoist ‘minimum-maximum’ program to keep the masses tied to parliament when they are under attack by world imperialism and the national bourgeoisie. The critical test of the SRWP’s program, the pandemic, has arrived after a year of its existence. What the masses need now is a revolutionary party and program to expose the dangers of a reformist program and to advance the struggle for socialist revolution. From the standpoint of Trotsky’s transitional method and program, we critically examine two SRWP statements on fighting the pandemic, going through its more general statements as well as its specific demands.
“Every crisis discards the conventionalities, tears away the outer wrappings, sweeps away the obsolete and reveals the underlying springs and forces.” Vladimir Lenin, On Self-Determination, 1916
This is a classic statement of the two stage ‘minimum-maximum’ program. Lenin is quoted invoking the authority of Bolshevism, or, “Marxism-Leninism”.
“After Covid-19, there can be no going back to Capitalism’s brutal economy of inequality.”
Correct as a general statement about crises. And the pandemic is a crisis.
“With the contradictions of the capitalist system being laid bare, we as the working class have the responsibility of arresting the status quo and ensuring that the way forward is socialism and not barbarism.”
It seems the proletariat must play a role in this and not leave it to history.
“While in the immediate term governments must be pressured to provide all the necessary materials and means for humanity to emerge victorious from the scourge of Covid-19 (such as larger cash payments to working class and poor individuals and families), we must pursue a far more decisive class struggle of smashing the host cell of the neoliberal order. As the working class, we have to amass our forces to the enemy’s centre of gravity – capitalism and imperialism.”
To get to socialism, fIrst workers must fight to overcome the scourge of Covid-19, and “emerging victorious” they then must smash capitalism and imperialism.
The minimum program here is the concrete actions to fight the pandemic e.g. cash for working class and poor families. These are reforms won from the government by mobilising the masses. They do not require workers to organise to smash capitalism and imperialism. The smashing happens after the victory against Covid-19.
“Capitalism always seeks and finds ways of reshaping itself and shed-off its old skin, which would have been wounded from the time of crisis. Its defeat will therefore not come as a result of magical forces. The working class must organize – trade unions must organise the unorganized workers, social movements, working class student formations and all the progressive forces must unite to put capitalism where it belongs – in a dustbin of history.”
If there is any doubt as to this being a stageist program here we find the second stage elaborated as an ongoing struggle by the working class to put capitalism into the dustbin of history. But it is to be organised by the trade unions and not by a revolutionary mass party around a political program. This is essentially a syndicalist program.
The SRWP is a workers party based on the unions, specifically NUMSA, so we can give it credit for responding to pressure from the masses to found the party. Yet if the workers party is not won over to a transitional program, its min-max program will lead to defeats at the hands of capitalist imperialism. The transitional program is based on the method that mobilises around immediate demands by demonstrating that even the most minimal demands cannot be won except by a successful socialist revolution.
We will demonstrate this method by critiquing the ‘action program’ and comparing each immediate demand with a transitional demand. Of course this means rejecting the minimalist statement at the start.
“Key demands we continue to make for a new, just arrangement of the South African political economy”.
Reforms to make ‘just’ the SA political economy will require a socialist revolution. We soon see that the ‘key demands’ fall short of advancing workers to socialism.
1. Abolish extreme income inequality through a universal basic income grant based on a social scientific analysis of people’s needs.
This is a demand put on the capitalist state but it cannot be fought for with class struggle methods. Trotsky posed demands for wages to be put on the capitalist employers, backed by organised labour, and based on a sliding scale to keep pace with inflation calculated by workers’ prices and wages committees. In the same way workers would determine their needs collectively not individually making use of ‘social scientific analysis’ only if needed.
2. Introduction of a wealth tax and solidarity tax to fund programmes to eradicate unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Like Point 1, this is a demand on the state to redistribute income to the unemployed, poor etc. Workers are mobilised only to elect a government that can pass such legislation. Trotsky’s method was to demand employers agree to a sliding scale of hours, reducing hours without loss of pay until there were jobs for all. Poverty and inequality are met under point 1.
3. Implementation of a general anti-avoidance tax act to halt base erosion, profit shifting and the loss of the country’s resources to illicit financial flows.
Another demand on the state, this time to stop ruling class tax avoidance. Trotsky demanded that bosses’ open their books to the workers so they could calculate the rate of profit and where profits ended up. Again, this is imposed on the bosses by class struggle and not by voting for reformist political parties in bourgeois governments. (see next point)
4. Restructuring of personal income tax to ensure that those who can pay more make more contributions to the fiscus.
This appeals to the state to make the rich pay more. It doesn’t even demand a graduated tax which would mean the rich paid at a higher rate. On the tax question in general Trotsky did not call for workers to demand income redistribution from the bourgeois state as it diverted class struggle away from production relations to distributional relations. However under a Workers’ government in a Workers’ State, taxation of the rich was a policy to redistribute income determined by the plan under socialist social relations.
5. Free and adequate provision of quality housing, water, electricity, health services, education and all other basic services necessary for a healthy and happy human life.
This is a key demand in responding to the pandemic lockdown of the working masses. Yet it states only the urgent needs of workers under lockdown and that they can do no more than get the state to meet these needs. It doesn’t mobilise workers to self-organise to occupy and requisition these basic services. Like workers committees on prices, wages, hours of work, Trotskyists demand that all these services come under workers control through committees that plan, requisition, and distribute housing, health, transport, water, electricity, education etc.
6. Abolish the current poverty national minimum wage and replace it with a living wage linked to the actual cost of production of the life of a worker and their family.
See point 1 above. A living wage can be won only by class struggle and determined by workers’ committees on wages and prices. Workers know how much their lives cost, and have the power to win a living wage.
7. Nationalise all strategic industries particularly the mines, the land and commercial farms, the banks, the big factories and the big business.
Demanding that the bourgeois state ‘nationalises’ capitalist and imperialist property (even without compensation) is to convert private property of individual capitalists into the collective property of the capitalist class in general. Trotsky’s transitional demands are to occupy and expropriate capitalist property (not private property outside capitalist production) which means without compensation since the value that is being expropriated was that expropriated from the working class over generations.
8. Integration of all nationalised industry into a democratic socialist plan of production for human need and not for profit.
Nationalised property cannot be integrated into a socialist plan unless it is socialised by a workers’ government for that purpose. Adding the words ‘democratic socialist’ does not change capitalist social relations.
9. Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, and transform it from a profiteering apparatus to a central accounting department.
Same as 7 and 8 above. While the Reserve Bank is officially privately owned, it’s function is already nationalised on behalf of all capitalists since the state decides monetary policy and pays off debt with future taxation originating as the surplus-value of the working class. The socialist demand is for a Workers’ Government to expropriate the private banks and create one central workers’ bank.
10. The imperialist institutions such as the World Bank must cancel structural adjustment programs imposing debt/loan, and the debts of all developing countries.
The only way that South Africa can cancel its debt is for workers to take power as a Workers’ Government and renounce all debt owed to imperialist and national banks and financial institutions.
“We will abolish inequality by abolishing capitalism and all its social and cultural institutions. Only through decisive socialist revolutionary action, will humanity have a chance to survive.”
Yes! But we need a transitional program to mobilise workers’ power and Workers’ Governments in the whole of Southern Africa as part of a federation of socialist republics, in a world federation of socialist republics! e of the RSWP position on the pandemic along with the FTI and any
Jim reports that the time has come to break the “negotiated settlement” with the government that has delivered nothing since 1994 but worsening immiseration of the black masses. He concludes:
“This negotiated settlement has run its course. It will never deliver to the bulk majority, who are black and African and who remain economically marginalized. It is our advice as a vanguard Party, to the leadership of the ANC and the current government that it is impossible to continue to supervise the poverty of our people and the working class on behalf of imperialism and capitalism. [our emphasis, ed. note]
We therefore join together with all other working-class formations, trade unions and federations in the call for an immediate implementation of the following demands for the rest of the year:
1. Private hospitals to be nationalized and open to all.
2. Testing and treatment for coronavirus must be free.
3. Cutting interest rates down to zero for the duration of the pandemic and create stimulus packages for the economy.
4. Basic income grants must be made available for the poor.
5. Guaranteed paid leave for all workers who have been placed on quarantine, or short time/layoff because of the temporary shutdown of plants.
6. A moratorium on job losses across all sectors of the economy.
7. All home loan and rent payments including all debt repayments must be suspended until after the pandemic has been dealt with
8. Food parcels must be provided for all those on self-isolation or quarantine in our townships and informal settlements.
9. It must be mandatory for all companies to adhere to the World Health Organization standards of cleanliness in the workplace. Workers who are forced to work and who are exposed to the public, e.g. garage workers, cashiers, waiters etc, all workers in the service industry must be provided with safety masks, sanitizers and gloves while on duty by the employer. This must be enforced with severe penalties for those who fail to adhere.
10. Stop all evictions with immediate effect.
11. Ensure all communities across South Africa have access to clean and quality water. Yet, whilst we work to secure the immediate survival of our class, we know this is a short term strategy. In the long term, only a full-scale war on capitalism, where we unite and organize, wielding ourselves as the working class into a political force, can we liberate ourselves and all of humanity from this system that prioritizes profit over people.
The gigantic division between those who have and those who do not – between those who have the resources to survive the virus and those who live in the most vulnerable, risky conditions – has long existed. However, these contradictions have been sharply highlighted, exposed and laid bare for the world to see through the rapid spread of COVID-19.
The state must deliver all the basic social and economic conditions for the survival of our people now. In Section 27 of the Constitution, the guarantee for health care, food, water and social security for all, is the long-called-for mandate by the people. We must be unrelenting in our call for justice, equality and safety of the people. [our emphasis, ed. note]
Ultimately, we know that it is up to us all to begin to break the system of inequality and build a new one. Let us take this time to organize ourselves to defend the working class. Let us guard against stigmatization of people suffering not only from Covid-19, but from poverty, unemployment, homelessness. Let us lead in ensuring that our communities get what they need, that they are fed, our elders and most vulnerable cared for: physical distancing combined with social solidarity!”
This official statement from the SRWP confirms our view that the party is responding to pressure from below to transmit that pressure on the ANC led government for a ‘new settlement’ where the government must ‘deliver’ the list of demands presented. The party is ‘advising’ the government to do this on behalf of the working people at a time when that government is committed to serving the interests of imperialism and the national bourgeoisie facing a global terminal crisis.
It is possible that mass pressure can force the hand of the government to nationalise private hospitals, keep workers in jobs, provide emergency support, clean water and health and safety conditions. These have been won in the past But to achieve these today at a level necessary to meet the needs of workers at a time of a terminal crisis would threaten capitalist’s survival and be met with state repression. Under the pandemic workers are being attacked for breaking curfews or protesting without making any demands! Workers face defeat unless they mobilise, build workers’ councils and self-defence organisations capable of defending their class from defeat.
This cannot happen without workers’ organising to fight for these demands independently of the government to build the unity, power and confidence of workers to take control of the economy. Workers have the power to occupy and take control of private hospitals. They have the power to take control of health and safety in combating the virus. They can back the health workers to occupy and manage hospitals and health clinics and hotels suitable for physical isolation. They can organise committees to provide food, water, and other essential services by seizing surpluses being destroyed by the lockdown. They have the power to organise defence committees that maintain the security of these workers organisations against the repressive forces of the state.
With these transitional demands based on Trotsky’s Transitional Program, the international party of socialist revolution can lead workers to build the power to gain control of the economy that bridges the gap between the minimum program and the maximum program that exists in the SRWP program. If workers are expected to beg the government for their immediate needs they will never develop the class consciousness and class power to cross that bridge and take the power that makes the maximum demand of socialist revolution possible.
It is necessary for class conscious workers to build that independent party, based on the Transitional Program to fulfill their historic task of leading the masses to the overthrow of the capitalist system and the fight for a socialist world!
Forward to the Permanent Revolution! International Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency
red rave is the loud mouth of members of the Communist Workers' Group of Aotearoa/New Zealand, committed to building a new communist international to lead workers to the revolutionary overthrow of global capitalism. Since 2010 we have been in a Liaison Committee with the Communist Workers' Group (USA), the Revolutionary Workers' Group (Zimbabwe) and the Revolutionary Workers' Group (Brazil). In December 2019 the LCC became the International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency (ILTT) on the basis of agreement on program and perspectives, and the need for a higher level of democratic centrism in the fight for a new world party of socialism.