XXIX: Building the Revolutionary World Party in the Age of Great Power Rivalry





No one with open eyes can deny that the world is heading towards a period of catastrophes and profound upheavals. The decay of capitalism pushes the Great Powers – the old ones as well as the new ones – to fight each other and to tighten the exploitation of the oppressed peoples. This provokes inevitable trade wars, diplomatic tensions and, ultimately, major wars and a world war between the imperialist powers. It results, equally inevitable, in economic squeezing of the poor countries by the multinational corporations as well as in an increasing number of military interventions in order to secure imperialist domination.


Such a development is not caused by particularly bad individuals. If Trump would be replaced by someone else, the U.S. might have a President who sends less Twitter messages and who masters the English Grammar. But the fundamental dynamic of world politics would not be different. It is capitalism in its decay, and not individual lunatics, which threatens to lead the world into the abyss.


Salvation will not happen. Salvation can only be enforced. Enforced against the imperialist monopolies and governments. Enforced by the powerful intervention of the working class and the oppressed peoples. An intervention which will not and which can not take place spontaneously but which has to be planned and organized. There can be no plan without planners and no organization without organizers. In other words, there can be no conscious intervention of the working class and the oppressed peoples without a revolutionary party. And no party can come into existence without the preceding creation and building of a pre-party organization. [1] Such a party can elaborate a program, a perspective, a plan for struggle. The explicit thesis of the Communist International has not lost its validity: “The Communist Party is the principal and fundamental weapon for the emancipation of the working class.[2]


Leon Trotsky summarized this conclusion in 1924 in one of his fundamental documents, The Lessons of October, with the following trenchant words: „Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer. That is the principal lesson of the past decade.[3]


Since capitalism exists, and can only exist, as a world system, the working class must organize and fight not only on the national but, simultaneously, also on the international terrain. It is impossible to fight against the imperialist powers in America, Europe and Asia with a nationally isolated organization. National-centeredness is always wrong. But it is devastating in the age of Great Power rivalry when the working class needs an organization which is able to withstand the inevitable national pressures and which can raise its program above the national borders and above any national-centered interests.


We repeat what the RCIT has emphasized already many times: From its beginning, a truly revolutionary party or pre-party organization must be an international formation. Only as an international organization we can develop a truly internationalist outlook, internalize international experience and work as internationalist revolutionaries. If a group exists for too long as a national organization, it runs into serious danger of developing a nation-centered experience and perspective. And this means, ultimately, a non-revolutionary experience and perspective!


Furthermore, the international character of the party corresponds to the nature of the revolutionary program and activity. Just as the revolutionary program can only live, breathe, and develop in an organization of revolutionary militants, so can the international program as well as proletarian internationalism and solidarity only exist in an international organization. Without it, national centeredness and finally nationalist deviations are unavoidable. Trotsky once rightly remarked: “Marxist policies ’in one country’ are as impossible as the construction of a socialist society ’in one country’.” [4]


Such a conception is true for both a party and a pre-party organization, as Trotsky explained in numerous articles and letters:


From its very first steps the Opposition must therefore act as an international faction – as did the Communists in the days of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, or in the Zimmerwald Left at the beginning of the war. In all these cases the groups were for the most part small numerically or it was a matter of isolated individuals; but they nevertheless acted as an international organization. In the epoch of imperialism such a position is a hundred times more imperative than in the days of Marx.


Those who believe that the International Left will someday take shape as a simple sum of national groups, and that therefore the international unification can be postponed indefinitely until the national groups “grow strong,” attribute only a secondary importance to the international factor and by this very reason take the path of national opportunism.


It is undeniable that each country has greatest peculiarities of its own; but in our epoch these peculiarities can be assayed and exploited in a revolutionary way only from an internationalist point of view. On the other hand, only an international organization can be the bearer of an international ideology.


Can anyone seriously believe that isolated Oppositional national groups, divided among themselves and left to their own resources, are capable of finding the correct road by themselves? No, this is a certain path to national degeneration, sectarianism, and ruin. The tasks facing the International Opposition are enormously difficult. Only by being indissolubly tied together, only by working out answers jointly to all current problems, only by creating their international platform, only by mutually verifying each one of their steps, that is, only by uniting in a single international body, will the national groups of the Opposition be able to carry out their historic task.[5]




Changes in the Conditions to Build a Revolutionary World Party




Some critics might object that the conditions for building a revolutionary party are very different from the times of Lenin. This is, of course, true. But one has to understand wherein exactly lays the difference. The development of the productive forces has certainly important consequences for the education level, the skills, the communication technologies, etc. Today, the education level of the working class is definitely much higher today than it was in the past. This makes it easier for revolutionaries to spread their agitation and propaganda. Internet and smartphone also change the way of communication and make international collaboration much easier. Killing also has become much easier for armies with modern machine guns, drones and nuclear weapons.


But all these technological developments have not altered the essence of capitalism and imperialism. Exploitation of the working class continues to exist as well as misery of the poor peasants. The weapons have changed but the reactionary character of imperialist wars has remained the same.


This is not to deny that there have been significant changes which affect the revolutionary work. As we have already elaborated in The Great Robbery of the South and also briefly in this book, there has been a significant shift of capitalist production and, consequently, of the international working class from the old imperialist countries to China and the semi-colonial South. This has profound consequences for the priorities of building a Revolutionary World Party as such an organization must have a focus on those countries where nowadays about 85% of the international proletariat works and fights.


One hundred years ago, when ¾ of the world proletariat was located in Europe and North America, there existed a certain justification of focusing revolutionary work to these regions. However, even at that time, the communists emphasized the importance of work among the colonial people. However, today, when the relation of forces has turned around and when more than 4/5 of the world proletariat is located in the new imperialist countries like China and Russia as well as in the semi-colonial South, under such conditions we consider any backward insistence on focusing party-building still on the old imperialist states as backward First-Worldism. Such First-Worldism is thoroughly reactionary and an obstacle in building the Revolutionary World Party!


Another change which has to be taken into account is the fact that the imperialist states have become much richer. This means that the ruling class has gained the opportunity to build a more finely woven super-structure in order to integrate and manipulate the working class and the youth. Likewise, their resources to bribe and integrate the labor aristocracy have increased.


In addition, we can observe the following, highly contradictory development: in the past decades of globalization a peculiar discrepancy has emerged respectively has been reinforced. On one hand the world has become “integrated” more than ever before – not only economically but also socially via access to information (internet, smartphone, etc.), migration, travelling, etc. On the other hand, social inequality – both between countries as well as within countries – also has substantially increased.


As a result of this combination an enhanced clash between two worlds is taking place – between the rich and the poor countries, between the upper strata and the lower strata. A right wing reflection of this development is Samuel Huntington’s famous thesis of “the Clash between Civilizations”. [6] Such a clash pushes the liberal middle class and the labor aristocracy to stubbornly defend their privileges against “the plebs” in the inner-cities and suburbs and against the “backward barbarians” from the South. This finds its ideological justification in ideologies like defending bourgeois secularism against the “fanatic Muslims” or defending the institutions dominated by “educated people” against the “stupid, fake-news manipulated people”. Of course, the middle class and the labor aristocracy are also suffering in the age of austerity. But compared with the huge majority of the world working class – with which the middle class and the labor aristocracy increasingly comes into contact – they are still highly privileged. This contradiction is intensified by the fact that meanwhile the bulk of the global capitalist value is no longer created in the old imperialist countries.


This is an important factor, albeit not the only one [7], for the growing polarization inside the “so-called” left in imperialist countries and for the hostility of many reformists and centrists against the uprisings of migrant youth and against the Arab Revolution.


In other words, these developments are massively reinforcing the tendencies of aristocratism among the reformist and centrist left. This makes it all the more urgent for revolutionaries to fight against the aristocratism and to orientate to the lower strata of the proletariat and to the popular masses in the semi-colonial world.


Finally, and most importantly, the revolutionary forces are much weaker today and the class consciousness of the proletariat is more backward than this was the case hundred years ago. At the same time, the influence of the reformist bureaucracy and of petty-bourgeois populist forces has substantially increased.


Recognizing such a disadvantageous development does not equal pessimism and certainly does not justify the skepticism and cynicism which is so widespread among the so-called left.


First, one must not forget that the main factors for the development of the consciousness of the masses are the objective developments of the contradictions of the capitalist system as well as between the classes and states. It was first and foremost not the small underground literature of the Bolsheviks which galvanized the consciousness of the workers and poor peasants but rather their brutal living conditions as well as the wars in 1904/05 respectively in 1914-17 – in particular when the ruling class suffered severe defeats and lost its prestige. There can be no doubt that the coming period is full of such economic and ecological catastrophes, political crisis and military disasters. This will provide Marxists with ample opportunities to intervene in class struggles and to explain to the workers and oppressed the necessity to organize on the basis of a revolutionary program.


Secondly, it is true that revolutionaries today are much smaller in numbers than they were one hundred years ago. But the acceleration of the contradictions between the states and between the classes will inevitable weaken and undermine the reformist and populist apparatus and open the road for authentic Marxists. The ideas of social-imperialism and pacifism will be exposed by reactionary Great Power policy and political crisis. The line of working class internationalism based on the independence of all Great Powers and on support for all liberation struggles will gain in attractiveness.


In our opinion, revolutionaries should draw the following consequences from such an assessment: a) that uniting the small forces on a principled basis is highly urgent and b) that a new party can only be built by fusing our program with the new layers of working class and youth activists which are gaining experience in the struggles. They might be still politically raw but militant and open for new ideas. This is the milieu to which revolutionaries must orientate and with whose aid the Revolutionary World Party will be built!




Orientation to the New Militant Layers of the Working Class and Youth




At this point it is useful to draw attention to the following issue. One of the main dividing lines today between revolutionary Marxism and the various shades of centrism is the approach towards the “backward” masses. Such “backward” masses could be the workers and poor peasants rallying against Great Powers and their local dictators under religious-inspired petty-bourgeois ideologies, an oppressed people fighting for freedom under the banner of nationalism, the migrant youth in the banlieues around Paris in 2005, the black and migrant youth in Tottenham in 2011 or the peri-urban masses demonstrating in Yellow Vests in France in 2018.


As we have discussed on numerous occasions, Marxists must energetically support such struggles – despite the petty-bourgeois leadership and despite a politically less developed consciousness of the masses. [8] In contrast to various centrists who arrogantly glance down to the “backward” masses and who prefer to stand aside of their struggles (or even to support their enemies in the name of “secularism” or “public security”!), revolutionaries wholeheartedly side with and join such liberation struggles of the workers and oppressed. The centrists say that such masses are hopelessly backward and one should wait until they have learned and only than one could join forces with them. In contrast, the Marxists insist on joining the fighting masses already now while they still follow wrong ideologies but struggle against their oppressors and, during and in the midst of such struggles, we will help them to politically learn and to advance their consciousness.


Trotsky aptly summarized these different approaches:


Nevertheless, Ledebour’s position even on this question does not leave the precincts of centrism. Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression; he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits; he is ready to take upon himself a fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism, adventurism, Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter.


What characterizes Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude toward oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics. Bolshevism does not confine itself to recognizing their “right” to self-determination and to parliamentary protests against the trampling upon of this right. Bolshevism penetrates into the midst of the oppressed nations; it raises them up against their oppressors; it ties up their struggle with the struggle of the proletariat in capitalist countries; it instructs the oppressed Chinese, Hindus, or Arabs in the art of insurrection and it assumes full responsibility for this work in the face of civilized executioners. Here only does Bolshevism begin, that is, revolutionary Marxism in action. Everything that does not step over this boundary remains centrism.“


This is related to the strategic difference between Marxism and centrism, between Bolshevism and Menshevism on the issue towards which layers to focus in party building. The Mensheviks always orientated to the intelligentsia and the upper strata of the working class while the Bolsheviks primarily orientated to the lower strata of the working class (including the youth). Trotsky summarized this approach in the well-worded formula:


The strength and meaning of Bolshevism consists in the fact that it appeals to oppressed and exploited masses and not to the upper strata of the working class.“ [9]


This difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism in party building was related to the differences in the strategic lines of the revolution. The Mensheviks considered the liberal bourgeoisie as the central ally of the proletariat in the coming the revolution. On the other hand, they thought of the peasantry as a conservative, backward mass which could not play any progressive role in class struggle. In contrast, the Bolsheviks considered the liberal bourgeoisie as a central enemy in the revolutionary struggle while the viewed the poor masses of the peasantry as the most important ally of the working class. Lenin summarized these differences in the strategic orientation like this:


The experience of the 1905 Revolution and of the subsequent counter-revolutionary period in Russia teaches us that in our country two lines of revolution could be observed, in the sense that there was a struggle between two classes—the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie—for leadership of the masses. The proletariat advanced in a revolutionary fashion, and was leading the democratic peasantry towards the overthrow of the monarchy and the landowners. That the peasantry revealed revolutionary tendencies in the democratic sense was proved on a mass scale by all the great political events (...) The first line of the Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution, as deduced from the facts and not from “strategic” prattle, was marked by a resolute struggle of the proletariat, which was irresolutely followed by the peasantry. Both these classes fought against the monarchy and the landowners. The lack of strength and resolution in these classes led to their defeat (although a partial breach was made in the edifice of the autocracy).


The behaviour of the liberal bourgeoisie was the second line. We Bolsheviks have always affirmed, especially since the spring of 1906, that this line was represented by the Cadets and Octobrists as a single force. The 1905-15 decade has proved the correctness of our view. At the decisive moments of the struggle, the Cadets, together with the Octobrists, betrayed democracy and went to the aid of the tsar and the landowners. (...)


The Bolsheviks helped the proletariat consciously to follow the first line, to fight with supreme courage and to lead the peasants. The Mensheviks were constantly slipping into the second line; they demoralised the proletariat by adapting its movement to the liberals (...) Only these trends – the Bolshevik and the Menshevik – manifested themselves in the politics of the masses in 1904-08, and later, in 1908-14. Why was that? It was because only these trends had firm class roots—the former in the proletariat, the latter in the liberal bourgeoisie.” [10]


Naturally, the concrete situation in world capitalism in the early 21st century differs from Russia a century ago. But the basic differences in class orientation between opportunism and Marxism have remained the same. The reformists orientate towards an alliance with a “progressive” sector of the bourgeoisie, with a Great Power opposing U.S. imperialism, with the enlightened intelligentsia, etc. In contrast, they despise the “primitive” masses, the “uneducated” lower strata, the religious-minded migrant youth, the “fanatic” people in the South shouting “Allahu akbar”, etc. The centrists usually follow them and prefer the company of the reformists, of the “educated” people at the universities and the labor bureaucrats than the politically raw workers and the migrant youth of the banlieues.


The Bolshevism of the 21st century is categorically opposed to any alliance with sectors of the imperialist bourgeoisie or with any Great Power. While applying the united front tactic to the labor bureaucrats and progressive academic whenever it is necessary in order to mobilize the masses, revolutionaries focus on working among these “backward” masses. It is impossible to build a revolutionary party in the 21st century without fully understanding this question!




Reformism and Centrism as Obstacles




The struggle against imperialism and war must be based on two fundamental and interrelated principles:


a) Fight against all Great Powers – both in East and West;


b) Support all liberation struggles of the workers and oppressed peoples against any Great Power or its reactionary lackey.


Without basing its policy on these two, inter-related principles no organization can implement a consistent anti-imperialist program. [11]


It is evident, and we have demonstrated this in detail in this book, that the struggle to rally the working class against imperialism and war does not take place in a vacuum. In fact, the official workers movement is dominated by pro-Western and pro-Eastern social-imperialists. The various centrist forces, vacillating in-between, are prisoners of their past programmatic failures and of their opportunist adaption to the reformist bureaucracy.


Hence, the struggle of any revolutionary organization to win the workers vanguard and, via the workers vanguard, the proletarian masses, is inevitable linked with the struggle against these social-imperialist and social-pacifist forces.


Marxists have repeatedly emphasized that the ruling class has not successfully sustained its dominance because of its inner strength, but because of the support it receives from the labor bureaucracy. James P. Cannon, the historic leader of American Communism and Trotskyism, once stated: “The strength of capitalism is not in itself and its own institutions; it survives only because it has bases of support in the organizations of the workers. As we see it now, in the light of what we have learned from the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, nineteenths of the struggle for socialism is the struggle against bourgeois influence in the workers’ organizations, including the party.” [12]


And indeed, all the pro-Western and pro-Eastern social-imperialist forces are agents of such bourgeois influence since they aid this or that Great Power and since they, by this, divide and confuse the international working class.


As we have demonstrated in the chapters above, the Stalinist, ex-Stalinist, and semi-reformist forces serve, openly or concealed, one or another imperialist Great Power. Various centrists are incapable to understand the true character of Russia and China and, hence, fail to recognize the nature of the present historic period as one of accelerating Great Power rivalry in which revolutionaries must fight against all imperialist states. Likewise, many of them fail to consistently support the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples against one or the other Great Power.


It is obvious that these reformist and centrist forces are an obstacle for the liberation struggle of the international working class. Hence, the struggle to win the workers vanguard for a consistent anti-imperialist program can not advance without the energetic struggle against the influence of the social-imperialists and social-pacifists.


As a matter of fact, many of these reformist and centrist forces have become so rotten that one can not expect that they could play any progressive role in the class struggle ahead. The RCIT considers it a mistake by various revolutionaries to hope for a kind of self-curing process of such forces which are adapting since years and decades to the bourgeois order. No, the future party of revolution will be primarily not built from fragments of reformist or centrist parties but rather from the new emerging militant layers of the working class and the oppressed. These new, raw elements will provide the dynamic and fruitful material to build a revolutionary party with a healthy spirit and militant dedication to the cause of the liberation struggle.


As we have stated above, the struggle against imperialism is simultaneously a struggle for the liberation of the workers and oppressed. A revolutionary organization can not wage such a struggle as a substitutionalist struggle for the proletariat but only with and via strong roots among the proletarian masses. The numerous capitulations of reformist and centrist forces in the imperialist countries to the chauvinist pressure is related to their failure to base themselves on the lower strata of the working class, the oppressed masses, the migrants, the people of color, etc. In fact, a revolutionary organization must strive to have a membership and leadership which is not dominated by intellectuals and labor aristocrats but by activists from the lower and oppressed strata of the working class.


Likewise, a revolutionary International today must not have its main basis in the old imperialist metropolises in North America and Western Europe. In times when the huge majority of the world proletariat in the 21st century – about 85% - lives in the South, i.e., outside the old imperialist metropolises, any revolutionary world party must focus to build among these masses.


We are fully aware that the authentic revolutionary forces today are weak. A new World Party of Socialist Revolution will not fall from heaven. Building such a party requires a longer process of building roots among the masses, education of cadres, practical tests, etc. But recognizing the difficulties and weaknesses is no reason to despair but rather to consciously tackle the existing problems and to energetically going to work!


The words of Seneca, the famous Roman philosopher, have not lost their significance: Fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt (the Fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling). No doubt, “fate” (i.e. the laws of class struggle) will drag the revisionists in a cul-de-sac. However, revolutionaries who are willing to fight and to learn, can utilize the coming crises of capitalism and the storms of class struggles in order to advance in building a powerful instrument for the liberation struggle!


Today the RCIT is a pre-party organization committed to build such a world party. We are still a small organization but in the course of the past seven years we have managed to build an international organization with sections and fraternal groups in 18 countries on all continents. We reach out to all revolutionary organizations and activists around the world who agree with us on the most important issues of the global class struggle. Let us join forces in building a Revolutionary World Party! Let us build a joint international organization which fights against all Great Powers – both in East and West – and which supports all liberation struggles of the workers and oppressed peoples against any Great Power or its reactionary lackey.


Join us in this struggle! Join the RCIT!


[1] On the RCIT’s analysis of the revolutionary party see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice. Looking Back and Ahead after 25 Years of Organized Struggle for Bolshevism, Vienna 2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/rcit-party-building/

[2] Communist International: Theses on the Role of the Communist Party in the Proletarian Revolution, approved by the Second Comintern Congress (1920); in: John Riddell (Ed.): Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! (Volume 1), Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920, p. 200

[3] Leon Trotsky: The Lessons of October (1924); in: Leon Trotsky: The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1923-25), Pathfinder Press, New Your 1975, p. 252

[4] Leon Trotsky: Unifying the Left Opposition (1930); in: Writings 1930, p. 99

[5] Leon Trotsky: An Open Letter to All Members of the Leninbund (1930); in: Writings 1930, pp. 91-92

[6] See Samuel P. Huntington: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster, New York 1996

[7] As reasons for the strengthening of reactionary developments among significant sectors of the reformist and centrist milieu in the old imperialist countries one has to add a) the accelerating rivalry between the Great Powers and b) the political defeats which the labor movement has suffered after 1968 as well after the collapse of Stalinism in 1989-91 and which is expressed in its political, ideological and organizational decline.

[8] See on this e.g. RCIT: France: Defend the “Yellow Vests” Movement against State Repression! 03.12.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-defend-the-yellow-vests-movement-against-state-repression/; Nina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: These are not "riots" – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain! The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution!, 10.8.2011, http://www.rkob.net/new-english-language-site-1/uprising-of-the-poor-in-britain/; Michael Pröbsting: The August uprising of the poor and nationally and racially oppressed in Britain: What would a revolutionary organisation have done?, 18.8.2011, http://www.rkob.net/new-english-language-site-1/august-uprising-what-should-have-been-done/; Bericht der RKOB-Delegation über ihren Aufenthalt in London 2011, http://www.rkob.net/international/berichte-uprising-in-gb/, Michael Pröbsting: Britain: "The left" and the August Uprising, 1 September 2011, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/britain-left-and-the-uprising/

[9] Leon Trotsky: Perspectives and Tasks in the East. Speech on the third anniversary of the Communist University for the Toilers of the East (21. April 1924); in: Leon Trotsky Speaks, Pathfinder 1972, p. 205

[10] V. I. Lenin: On the Two Lines in the Revolution (1915), in: LCW Vol. 21, pp. 416-417

[11] We refer readers to the RCIT’s central programmatic documents: “The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto” (2012) and the “Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation” (2016). Both can be read online or downloaded at our website at https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/ and https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/.

[12] James P. Cannon: E.V. Debs (1956); in: James P. Cannon: The First Ten Years of American Communism, Pathfinder Press, New York 1962, p. 270