III. Fundamental principles of revolutionary strategy in the new Leviathan Era

 

 

 

As we did already state in the introduction above, we consider this book not as an academic exercise, not as a purpose in itself, but as a contribution to clarify the analysis and the perspectives for the class struggle against the counter-revolutionary offensive under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis. Trotsky’s dictum is more relevant than ever: „Marxism is, in its very essence, a set of directives for revolutionary action.[1] Hence, it is urgent to discuss the consequences of the Marxist analysis for the revolutionary struggle in the current period.

 

There can be no doubt that the current triple crisis poses extraordinary challenges for revolutionaries. The working class and the oppressed face the consequences of the worst economic slump since 1929. At the same time the repression apparatus of the bourgeois state is mobilized, people are forced to stay at home because of a global lockdown and public assemblies and demonstrations are banned in numerous countries all over the world. And, in parallel, people live under the fear of the Corona Virus pandemic. No doubt, this is a political tsunami of capitalist counter-revolution!

 

It is a paramount task of revolutionaries to develop a strategy in order to combat this reactionary assault. For this we have to begin with identifying the central axis of the counterrevolutionary line so that we can elaborate the central axis of the revolutionary line.

 

 

 

A political counterrevolution requires a political strategy by the Marxists

 

 

 

As we explained in the previous chapters the three catastrophes – Third Depression, Leviathan and pandemic – are related with each other. Each of these areas requires a programmatic response of Marxists. Hence, a revolutionary action program must comprise economic, political and health demands.

 

Revolutionaries therefore have to put forward a set of demands in order to fight capitalist incompetence and class bigotry in the struggle against the pandemic. As we have outlined in our Health Action Program (see Appendix), such a set of demands has to focus on free mass testing, quarantine for those infected and free access to hospitals for severe cases, the expansion of the public health sector under workers control, an international program of cooperation in order to develop a vaccine, for expropriation of the pharmaceutical industry under workers control, etc. [2]

 

Likewise, the struggle against the dramatic economic attacks must have at its center a set of demands against sacking, the worsening of the labor conditions and wage cuts, for the expropriation of corporations under workers control, for a public employment program financed by taxes on the super-rich, etc.

 

And the struggle against the assault on democratic rights requires a set of demands against the lockdown, against the suppression of the right to assemble and demonstrate, against the emergency powers for police and army, against the build-up of surveillance, etc.

 

In short, the triple catastrophes require revolutionaries to elaborate a strategy which deals with all these three areas – economic, political and health demands. However, we think it is possible and indeed necessary to identify the internal configuration of these three areas in order to map out a correct perspective. And as we have pointed out above it is the political counterrevolution – the shift towards chauvinist state bonapartism – which represents the most important line of attack of the ruling classes around the globe.

 

The political, anti-democratic attacks suppress the possibility for the working class and the popular masses to assembly, to unite and to fight for their rights. True, in those areas where work places are not closed, workers can – and have done in some cases – protest and strike. But any large-scale organizing and fighting is banned by the current anti-democratic attacks. Hence, these political attacks massively reduce the ability of the workers and oppressed to fight against rising unemployment and wage cuts as well as to fight for a better health care program. Any serious struggle of the popular masses on social or health issues will immediately clash with the political laws suppressing fundamental democratic rights. It is therefore impossible to raise any serious demand in the economic or health field without simultaneously also raising political, democratic demands which challenge the reactionary Leviathan.

 

In fact, it is a crucial characteristic of most reformist and centrist forces that they fail to elaborate such an approach in their programs for the current crisis. They list a series of demands – starting from better health protection to opposing wage cuts and sacking. Naturally, each and every demand is progressive and necessary. However, in most of these programs the most essential issue is missing: the demands for an end of the lockdown, for the right to assemble and demonstrate and against all aspects of the police and surveillance state.

 

But this elementary defect transforms such programs into pathetic begging letters to the capitalists and their governments! How shall the working class be able to force the capitalists in times of crisis to make any concession without mass struggles?! Shall they “fight” via online petitions?! It is embarrassing that we have to explain such an elementary truth but, sadly, most of the reformist and centrist left seem to have forgotten this! Such a reformist strategy of “fighting” without the masses is worse than a “mutiny on their knees” – it is rather a “rebellion while lying on their stomach”!

 

Lenin once observed that shocking historic events – he expressed this thought in the years of World War I – can result in profound confusion and depression in the consciousness of socialists. But it is quite another [thing, Ed.] to allow the war to oppress your thinking, to stop thinking and analysing under the weight of the terrible impressions and tormenting consequences or features of the war.“ Such “oppression of thinking” can result in failure to understand the role of the democratic struggle within the Marxist strategy. „Though Kievsky does not realise it, that is the real source of all his mishaps. That is his basic logical error which, precisely because it is basic and is not realised by the author, “explodes” at every step like a punctured bicycle tire. It “bursts out” now on the question of defending the fatherland, now on the question of divorce, now in the phrase about “rights”, in this remarkable phrase (remarkable for its utter contempt for “rights” and its utter failure to understand the issue): we shall discuss not rights, but the destruction of age-old slavery! To say that is to show a lack of understanding of the relationship between capitalism and democracy, between socialism and democracy. [3]

 

Such a failure to understand the importance of the democratic program is a central characteristic of the colossal failure of most leftists in the current period. But as a matter of fact, it is impossible for Marxists to promote the class struggle in the current conditions without putting the struggle against the Leviathanian counterrevolution – i.e. without putting a political, democratic struggle – in the center of propaganda and agitation. Failing to implement a political, anti-Leviathan struggle against the lockdown policy effectively means to support a policy of class truce. Those who do not openly challenge the political oppression by the capitalist state in the current phase effectively accept the present banning of public protests. Those who accept the present banning of public protests effectively agree to a policy of class truce, i.e. the policy of reformist capitulation.

 

 

 

The policy of class truce in times of pandemic weakens our struggle in defense of public health

 

 

 

This leads us to the next, closely related question. Many open or disguised leftist supporters of the lockdown policy claim that their acceptance of the suppression of democratic rights is only temporary. They promise that they will fight for these rights in the “Post-COVID-19” period, i.e. when the specific conditions of the current pandemic are over. Surely, in some cases such arguments are only a pretext for opportunistic capitulation, in other cases they are an honest reflection of political confusion. With capitulationists one does not need to discuss but rather to fight. However, with comrades who are confused by the all of the sudden and paralyzing global events we want to discuss and hopefully convince them.

 

We consider such a policy of temporary suspension of mass struggles as dangerous and self-disarming. First, it is beyond doubt that defending democratic rights can and must go hand in hand with precautious measures (washing hands and other standard hygienic measures; wearing masks – albeit we note that the WHO considered this not as necessary except if you are ill; keeping a certain distance between each other, etc.).

 

Second it is ridiculous to join the bandwagon of bourgeois hysteria that going on the streets would kill you. A few days ago scientists published the results of a study about the consequences of the Corona Virus. This study was conducted in the German town of Gangelt in Nordrhein-Westfalen. This is a kind of “German Wuhan” as it is the region with the highest infection in Germany at the time of writing (about 15% of the population). The study reports that the lethality (case fatality rate) based on the total number of infected individuals is 0.37%. [4]

 

Third, as we have said repeatedly, we can not know exactly how dangerous this virus is and how many people will die. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the H1N1 pandemic (“Swine Flu”) in 2009 resulted in globally 284,000 death. The WHO estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people die of seasonal flu annually. [5] Some say that the COVID-19 pandemic could be worse. May be, we don’t know and can’t know. But the issue of opposing steps towards dictatorship and defending democratic rights does not depend on the severity of a pandemic. No one in the world dared to question democracy when 200, 300 or 500 thousand people died in the past because of various pandemic. Why should any socialist or any democrat take a different approach in 2020 when we face the COVID-19 crisis?! Is it admissible to deend democracy when 500,000 people die in a pandemic but to support a bourgeois dictatorship when double or three times as many could die?! Likewise we ask if it is admissible for revolutionaries to championing democratic rights when a pandemic kills many people in Africa but to become supporters of bourgeois state of emergency regimes when such a pandemic arrives in Europe and North America?! Does this not reflect an aristocratic-chauvinist hypocrisy?! One is not a Marxist, not a socialist, not even a democrat if he or she does not know the right answer to these questions!

 

Fourth, suspension of class struggle in times of a pandemic will not improve but rather worsen the conditions to defend the living conditions and indeed to save the lives of people. The capitalist class utilizes the current lockdown in order to expand the authoritarian state apparatus, to close shops and to sack workers, and to prepare draconic austerity programs. All this will inevitable undermine the public health sector. And it will undermine the material and hygienic living conditions of people. Hence, the longer the capitalist class remains in power, the more time it has to advance its reactionary programs, the more dangerous become the living and health conditions for the popular masses.

 

Fifth, the idea that class truce would improve the conditions to fight the pandemic reveals a totally misplaced confidence in the ruling class. Why should the ruling capitalist class be more competent to fight the pandemic than the working class and the rural and urban poor could do to with the help of progressive scientists?! No, there should be no doubt that the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic can and must go hand in hand with the revolutionary democratic struggle against the emerging reactionary state bonapartism!

 

 

 

Adventurism or systematic preparation?

 

 

 

We are aware that demagogic opponents of revolutionary Marxism will object that our policy is adventurist and ultra-left because the masses don’t want to fight now on the streets. This is a silly argument in every respect. First, the decisive question is what revolutionaries say to the vanguard and the masses. Do they explain that the lockdown policy is reactionary, that the workers and oppressed should not trust the bourgeois state, that they should organize and prepare to fight to bring down the chauvinist bonapartist state? Or should they support the lockdown, should they accept is as unfortunate but necessary, should they remain silent on this issue? This is the decisive question in the present period! The RCIT has emphasized from the very beginning that one can only act in a revolutionary way if one enlightens the masses about the real nature of the reactionary offensive of the ruling classes and explains to them that they should oppose the lockdown policy. Only a concrete assessment of the consciousness of the masses will show if the time has come to call for the struggle on the streets. But what has to be done now is to explain the masses that they need to fight on the streets against the lockdown policy because otherwise they will suffer one setback after the other.

 

Our approach is the same which Lenin and the Bolsheviks took in the early phase of World War I when they were criticized for their uncompromising revolutionary line calling for the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. Lenin emphasized such necessity to openly state what is necessary for the proletariat to do irrespectively if it can be implemented immediately or not in an article on the first Zimmerwald conference in 1915: The question as to how rapidly, in which way and in which particular forms, the proletariat of the various countries are capable of taking revolutionary action was not raised at the Conference and could not have been. The conditions for this are not yet ripe. For the present it is our task to jointly propagandise the correct tactics and leave it to events to indicate the tempo of the movement, and the modifications in the mainstream (according to nation, locality and trade). If the French proletariat has been demoralised by anarchist phrases, it has been demoralised by Millerandism too, and it is not our business to increase this demoralisation by leaving things unsaid in the manifesto.[6]

 

And in the famous pamphlet of the Bolsheviks “Socialism and War” they stated likewise: “This task finds correct expression only in the slogan: convert the imperialist war into a civil war; all consistently waged class struggles in wartime and all seriously conducted “mass-action” tactics inevitably lead to this. It is impossible to foretell whether a powerful revolutionary movement will flare-up in connection with, during or after the first or the second imperialist war of the Great Powers; in any case it is our bounden duty to work systematically and unswervingly in this direction.[7]

 

Furthermore we want to emphasize that the political conditions in the countries all over the world develop unevenly. In some countries the masses will rise up earlier than in others. In the Chinese province Hubei (with Wuhan as its capital), in Nigeria, Colombia, Bolivia, Panama and other countries we have already seen spontaneous riots of sectors of the masses against the lockdown and against the reactionary state forces. We have even seen violent clashes in Brussels after the police killed a 19-year old youth because he breached the lockdown rules. [8] It is evident that the draconic lockdown policy can only temporarily suppress the mass anger and will sooner or later result in political explosions. The task of revolutionaries is to prepare the vanguard and the masses for what is to come inevitably sooner or later!

 

 

 

Breaking up the chauvinist bonapartist state machinery

 

 

 

The central necessity of the political struggle against the chauvinist bonapartist state machinery – the new Leviathan – is also related to the fundamental assessment of the state by Marxists. In order to understand this more precisely one needs to briefly recapitulate the Marxist analysis of the capitalist state.

 

It is a widespread misunderstanding by many so-called Marxists to imagine that capitalism is the basically the economic sphere and then there is the state as a kind of unconnected political appendix. We have always emphasized that in fact the opposite is the case.

 

Capitalism is a political and economic unity of (class-)opposites. It can only be understood as a totality of economic relations of production and the political, social and ideological superstructure. These different levels are mutually dependent and can only exist in reciprocal dependence. It is no accident that Marx, and we after him, speaks of political economy, and not simply economics. There would be no extraction of surplus value in the workplaces if the bourgeois state apparatus did not guarantee the corresponding legal relations, enforcing these with violence when necessary. The imperialist bourgeoisie could not achieve its goals on the world market if there were no states to safeguard them worldwide politically and militarily, if need be, by tariffs, loan guarantees, diplomacy or even war if necessary. Furthermore, maintaining the contradictory equilibrium of a society consumed by class conflict would be unthinkable without a finely-woven ideological web to bind the oppressed classes and strata to the ruling bourgeoisie and to ensure that the former come to terms, to a certain extent, with exploitation and oppression. Hence the role of school, university and media.

 

It is clear then that capital, and thus capitalism, can only exist through interrelated and thereby social labour. Thus, capital can only exist if the exchange of commodities and the production of surplus value by capital are socially organized and regulated — hence the importance of state, legal relations, society, etc. Furthermore, capital can only exist if the value-producing commodity, labour power, is constantly produced and reproduced — recuperated through social activities (leisure, family, etc) and replaced with new labor power through the bearing and raising of children. All this, again, requires the regulating and intervening activity of the state.

 

From this follows, theoretically formulated, that capitalism presupposes not only the production and reproduction of commodities and capital, but also — from natural necessity — the production and reproduction of the basic social conditions which make the former possible. The Bolshevik theoretician Nikolai Bukharin noted aptly in 1920: “The process of reproduction is not only a process of reproducing the material elements of production, but also one which reproduces the very relations of production. Expanded reproduction means expanded reproduction of existing relations of production; their scope and extent becomes greater; the existing mode of production is ‘spread’ with the internal reorganization of its component parts. The reproduction of the capitalist relations of production is a reproduction of their substance…[9]

 

From this follows that the social function of the capitalist state is not a “neutral activity” but rather a subordinated function of its role as a “machinery of class domination”, as Marx put it in his first draft of “The Civil War in France “. [10]

 

In Theses written for the Zimmerwald movement during World War I, the delegation of the Russian Bolsheviks stated aptly: “The ‘essence’ of the state is not its centralization in itself but its social function of oppression, like the ‘essence’ of capital is not the function of the production means but in a specific relationship between human beings. [11]

 

This is why the central character of the state is to secure the domination of one class over the other as Lenin said: The state is a special organisation of force: it is an organisation of violence for the suppression of some class.[12] Such a state defends the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie both against its domestic enemies (i.e. the working class and the popular masses) as well as against its foreign enemies (Great Power rivals as well as oppressed people in the Global South). Nikolai Bukharin category of an “imperialist robber state” is a quiet apt characterization for this machinery. [13]

 

As we have outlined in this book, the current triple catastrophe of capitalism results in a global shift towards chauvinist state bonapartism. This means that the essential feature of the capitalist state as ”an organisation of violence for the suppression of some class“ will become even more outstanding.

 

Capitalism in the new era – which is characterized by a catastrophic economic crisis and a dramatic acceleration of the contradictions between classes as well as between states – can not work without such a chauvinist bonapartist state machinery. Hence, the struggle against this machinery must be put in the centre of the political strategy of any revolutionary organization. In other words, if capitalism can not exist without the mailed fist of state power“, [14] revolutionaries must focus on smashing this reactionary fist of oppression!

 

When the RCIT says that the revolutionary strategy must have a focus on breaking up the chauvinist bonapartist state apparatus, this does not mean that such strategy can be reduced to this. As before, a program can be only considered as revolutionary if it contains all essential elements of the Transitional Program – like the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the nationalization of banks and corporations under workers control, the overthrow of the capitalist state by an armed uprising of the workers and popular masses and its replacement by a workers and popular government based on action councils of the masses, etc.

 

But the global counter-revolutionary offensive adds – or let us say emphasizes – a specific, additional element within such a transitional program for the current period: the revolutionary struggle for democracy and for the smashing of the chauvinist bonapartist state machinery. In summary, the struggle against chauvinist state bonapartism does not and can not equal or even replace the struggle for the socialist revolution. But it impossible to move towards the socialist revolution without putting the struggle against chauvinist state bonapartism as a key element of the Marxist program!

 

 

 

The revolutionary democratic struggle: a key element of the Marxist strategy in the new era

 

 

 

The fundamental anti-democratic character of the current global counter-revolutionary offensive and the consequential importance of the struggle against the chauvinist state bonapartism point to the centrality of the democratic question in the new era which has opened up. While the latest developments have definitely given additional weight to the democratic question this does not come out of the blue. In fact, the current chauvinist state bonapartism represents a qualitative higher stage of an anti-democratic development which has already taken place since a number of years.

 

We have already pointed out this in the RCIT’s program adopted in 2016: “The struggle for democratic rights has become one of the most important issues in this age of capitalism in decay. In this context, the ruling classes inevitably violate and trample on democratic rights and strive to replace even limited bourgeois democracy by capitalist Bonapartism and dictatorship.[15]

 

We have analyzed this development in more detail in a special pamphlet which we published in 2015. [16] At this point we will limit ourselves to summarize our most important conclusions and discuss their relevance for the current situation. In this work we stated: “Our fundamental thesis is that in the period of capitalist decay the democratic issues obtain increasing importance for the class struggle not only in the semi-colonial countries but also in the imperialist metropolises in the 21st century. In one of the quotes cited above, Lenin stated that “imperialism is indisputably the ‘negation’ of democracy in general”. The experience of the past 120 years has shown that while Lenin’s thesis is fundamentally correct for the whole epoch of imperialism, it is obviously not true to the same degree in all different periods within this epoch.“

 

We elaborated that for a number of reasons, the period after World War II was certainly one in which bourgeois democracy was established in most imperialist countries. “However, with the beginning of the new historic period of capitalist crisis in 2008/09 a qualitative change has emerged. Naturally, this transformation did not occur suddenly but was a result of preceding developments. First the capitalist crisis has qualitatively deepened and, hence, the bourgeoisie’s scope for concessions has dramatically decreased.” As examples for this tendency we pointed out the increasing relevance of migrants as part of the working class in the imperialist countries and the issue of chauvinism against them as well as against refugees. Other features which we named were the “never-ending increase of surveillance of the population by the imperialist state, the growing violation of democratic rights, the increasing numbers of imperialist wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Syria, etc.)”. We concluded: “Today this ‘imperialist robber state’ (…) becomes an increasingly aggressive tool of the ruling class both domestically as well as abroad.

 

Hence, the RCIT emphasized already years ago that the historic period which opened in 2008 – a period of actual decay of capitalism – inevitable accelerated the anti-democratic offensive of the bourgeoisie. We identified also crucial elements of such attacks on democratic rights. While we did not – and could not – foresee the Corona Virus pandemic in 2020 – we warned about the increasing role of chauvinism and the bonapartist state. And we emphasized that that the democratic question is massively gaining weight in the liberation struggle of the workers and oppressed.

 

Our understanding of the relevance of the democratic question has been based on the approach of Lenin and Trotsky. The Marxist classics have always emphasized that the democratic question is a crucial element of the struggle for socialism. In a polemic against comrades who underestimated the relevance of the democratic question, Lenin wrote a few months before the beginning of the Russian Revolution in 1917: It fails to appreciate the significance of democracy. For socialism is impossible without democracy because: (1) the proletariat cannot perform the socialist revolution unless it prepares for it by the struggle for democracy; (2) victorious socialism cannot consolidate its victory and bring humanity to the withering away of the state without implementing full democracy.[17]

 

From this follows the central place of the struggle for democratic rights within the revolutionary strategy: Capitalism in general, and imperialism in particular, turn democracy into an illusion—though at the same time capitalism engenders democratic aspirations in the masses, creates democratic institutions, aggravates the antagonism between imperialism’s denial of democracy and the mass striving for democracy. Capitalism and imperialism can be overthrown only by economic revolution. They cannot be overthrown by democratic transformations, even the most “ideal”. But a proletariat not schooled in the struggle for democracy is incapable of performing an economic revolution.[18]

 

Various critics have accused the RCIT that by putting emphasis on the democratic question we would undermine the class struggle and the socialist goal. We have always refused such nonsense. First, the democratic struggle is part of the class struggle and is not separated of it. Secondly, the struggle for democracy – if approached from a revolutionary angle and not from a reformist one – helps to develop and to sharpen the class consciousness of the proletariat. In order to achieve this, it is vital not to put forth the democratic question in a reformist way, not as an isolated appeal to the ruling class, but in a revolutionary way, i.e., as a slogan to mobilize the working class and the popular masses and which Marxists link to the revolutionary program.

 

As we have explained in past works, the main difference between revolutionary Marxists and opportunistic revisionists is certainly not the fact that they both raise democratic demands. Rather the difference is how they do so and the limitations which they set, or don’t, for these demands. In our pamphlet mentioned above, we summarized our differences with the revisionists on this issue as follows:

 

i) Revisionists don’t raise the democratic slogans consistently (e.g., they do not support anti-imperialist struggles, migrants’ rights, etc.)

 

ii) Revisionists don’t raise democratic slogans in a revolutionary but rather in a reformist manner. In other words, they put forward such slogans as an appeal to the bourgeois state and focus on the parliamentary struggle instead of on mobilizing the working class and popular masses. They also don’t denounce the un-reformable anti-democratic nature of the imperialist state and they don’t work towards fighting against democratic illusions in this state.

 

iii) Revisionists limit themselves to such democratic demands instead of combining them with the goal of a proletarian revolution. Thus they usually create around such demands a separate democratic stage, mechanistically separating it from the class struggle with the result being that the working class is politically subordinate to the bourgeoisie.

 

Today, after the experience of the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis, we could add to this statement that such reformist and centrist forces are also capable of committing even worse treacherous crimes. In cases like the current lockdown assault of the ruling classes all over the world, they do not “inconsistently raise the democratic slogans” but rather openly support the anti-democratic counterrevolution!

 

Marxists have to be the staunchest advocates of the democratic rights, of the struggle for consistent democracy and in order to successfully wage such a battle, they must combine this struggle with the strategic task of socialist revolution via the armed insurrection of the working class and the oppressed. This was also the understanding of the Bolsheviks: „The demand for the immediate liberation of the colonies that is put forward by all revolutionary Social-Democrats is also “impracticable” under capitalism without a series of revolutions. But from this it does not by any means follow that Social-Democracy should reject the immediate and most determined struggle for all these demands – such a rejection would only play into the hands of the bourgeoisie and reaction – but, on the contrary, it follows that these demands must be formulated and put through in a revolutionary and not a reformist manner, going beyond the bounds of bourgeois legality, breaking them down, going beyond speeches in parliament and verbal protests, and drawing the masses into decisive action, extending and intensifying the struggle for every fundamental democratic demand up to a direct proletarian onslaught on the bourgeoisie, i.e., up to the socialist revolution that expropriates the bourgeoisie. The socialist revolution may flare up not only through some big strike, street demonstration or hunger riot or a military insurrection or colonial revolt, but also as a result of a political crisis such as the Dreyfus case or the Zabern incident, or in connection with a referendum on the secession of an oppressed nation, etc.[19]

 

In summary, the RCIT emphasizes that the democratic program, as a whole and in its essential parts, cannot be realized under capitalism but only after a socialist revolution when the working class has established its rule. Likewise we reiterate that the struggle for democratic demands must be led by the working class in order to win. When democratic mass movements are led by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces socialists must fight inside them and strive for the working class to act as an independent force. In this context it is crucial to advocate the formation of fighting organs of the masses – councils of action, self-defense units, soviets, etc. – in order to prepare the independence of the working class. Furthermore, socialists have to combine the struggle for immediate and democratic demands with systematic propaganda for key transitional slogans like the expropriation of the large enterprises under workers’ control, the arming of the workers as well as the creation of a workers’ government.

 

A successful implementation of these steps as well as of the entire democratic program presupposes the formation of a revolutionary workers’ party which can gain the leadership of the working class in such struggles. Such a party must be characterized by strict proletarian internationalism so that it understands that solidarity with the working class and the oppressed in the South, in words and deeds, is a primary duty of workers in the imperialist metropolises. In order that such internationalism does not remain platonic lip service, such a party has to be part of the new Workers’ International based on a revolutionary program.

 

In summary, the current COVID-19 crisis puts the issues of democracy, i.e. of the political form of capitalism, in the center. The democratic program can only be fully realized if the struggle against the political counterrevolution is combined with the struggle for power, i.e. for overthrowing the bourgeoisie and smashing the capitalist state. Attacking the chauvinist bonapartist state apparatus opens the road to attack the capitalist state machinery as such. For all these reasons, an action program against the current triple crisis must link the economic and health demands with political, revolutionary-democratic slogans and put the later into the center.

 

 

 

Excurse: the relevance of the strategy of permanent revolution

 

 

 

The close and indispensable relationship between the democratic question and the struggle for socialist revolution demonstrates the actuality of a famous theoretical fundament of Marxism – the theory of permanent revolution as it was first expressed by Karl Marx and later further developed by Leon Trotsky. As we have pointed out in our works, the theory of permanent revolution is a central component of the Marxist program in the epoch of imperialism and as such it is relevant for each country of the world. Trotsky made it very clear that without this theory revolutionaries are incapable of understanding the character of the class struggle dynamic and therefore will not succeed in deriving from it the required strategic tasks. In a letter to an opponent, in 1931 he wrote:

 

But this theory [of permanent revolution, Ed.] gives us a unique and correct starting point in the internal dynamic of each contemporary national revolution and in its uninterrupted connection with the international revolution. In this theory the Bolshevik-Leninists have a fighting formula imbued with the content of the gigantic events of the last thirty years. On the basis of this formula, the Opposition is combating and will combat the reformists, the centrists and the national communists in a decisive manner. One of the most precious advantages of this formula is that it slices like a razor through the ideological ties with all kinds of revisionism of the epigones.[20]

 

At this point we will briefly recapitulate the three central aspects of the theory of permanent revolution. The first aspect – and the issue around which the faction struggle between the Stalinist bureaucracy and Trotsky’s Left Opposition started in 1923 – is the need for the internationalization of the revolution. The Stalinists claimed that socialism – i.e., a society where productive forces are so developed that classes and the state are withering away – can be built in a single nation state. Trotsky, referring to the traditional position of both Lenin as well as himself, stated that this is impossible. Both Lenin and Trotsky explained that since all national economies are inextricably linked with the world economy and since imperialist Great Powers can not tolerate a victorious revolution in a single country, the working class in power must see the international spread of the revolution as its most important strategic task.

 

The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From this follows on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion, only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.” [21]

 

Secondly, Trotsky showed that the tasks in the proletarian liberation struggle – including the democratic tasks – cannot be implemented under any form of capitalist regime but only under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is particularly relevant (but not exclusively!) for backward countries where many democratic tasks – national independence, agrarian revolution, and democratic freedoms – remain unfulfilled. From this follows that the revolutionary class struggle must not strive for actualization in separate stages of revolution and must not be subordinated to any faction of the bourgeoisie, but rather must continue without interruption until the proletariat has conquered power and established its dictatorship.

 

No matter what the first episodic stages of the revolution may be in the individual countries, the realization of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletariat vanguard, organized in the Communist Party. This in turn means that the victory of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance with the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution. (…) The dictatorship of the proletariat which has risen to power as the leader of the democratic revolution is inevitably and, very quickly confronted with tasks, the fulfillment of which is bound up with deep inroads into the rights of bourgeois property. The democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution.[22]

 

Finally, Trotsky stressed that the revolutionary struggle does not end with the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Quite the contrary, the working class must continuously drive the revolutionary process forward. It has to organize the class struggle – including the civil war and revolutionary wars – both internally against its domestic enemies as well as abroad against the imperialist powers.

 

The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale. This struggle, under the conditions of an overwhelming predominance of capitalist relationships on the world arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the permanent character of the socialist revolution as such, regardless of whether it is a backward country that is involved, which only yesterday accomplished its democratic revolution, or an old capitalist country which already has behind it a long epoch of democracy and parliamentarism.” [23]

 

The RCIT has repeatedly emphasized that the strategy of permanent revolution as not only relevant for countries of the South but also for the imperialist countries. It is a crucial failure of many revisionists – including many so-called “Trotskyists” – that they ignore this feature. The strategy of permanent revolution is the programmatic reverse side of the coin of the Law of Uneven and Combined Development. And since this law is relevant not only for the semi-colonial countries but also for the imperialist metropolises, permanent revolution constitutes a crucial strategy for the rich countries too. [24]

 

While Trotsky wrote about the theory of permanent revolution mostly in the context of the revolutionary tasks in so-called “backward” countries – either backward imperialist countries like Russia before 1917 or colonial or semi-colonial countries – he was at the same time unambiguously clear that this theory also applies to advanced imperialist countries. In the early 1930s he pointed to the example of Germany in the times of the Weimar Republic – at that time one of the most advanced imperialist countries.

 

Now the problem of the permanent revolution unfolds before us on the arena of the Iberian peninsula. In Germany the theory of the permanent revolution, and that theory alone, stands counterposed to the theory of a “people’s revolution.” On all these questions the Left Opposition has expressed itself quite categorically.[25]

 

Equally, Trotsky saw the struggle against fascism in imperialist Italy as part of the program of permanent revolution: „As to the problem of the anti-fascist revolution, the Italian question, more than any other, is intimately linked to the fundamental problems of world communism, that is, of the so-called theory of permanent revolution.[26]

 

Likewise he referred to the strategy of permanent revolution in relation to the liberation struggle of the Black minority in the United States: “Weisbord is correct in a certain sense that the ‘self-determination’ of the Negroes belongs to the question of the permanent revolution in America.[27]

 

These few quotes already demonstrate that Trotsky considered the theory of permanent revolution as highly relevant for all countries in the world – including imperialist societies – even if he did not elaborate on this issue more in depth. We think that the recent developments have confirmed the RCIT’s thesis that the theory of permanent revolution is indeed highly relevant today not only for semi-colonial but also for imperialist countries – for China and Russia as well as for Western Europe and North America. The only but decisive precondition for the revolutionary meaning of the democratic question is that it is approached from a revolutionary stance and not from a petty-bourgeois reformist.

 

 

 

No revolutionary strategy without internationalism in theory and practice!

 

 

 

The RCIT has pointed out repeatedly that it is impossible to have a correct understanding of the world situation and to draw the necessary conclusion without an internationalist approach. Marxists have always insisted that capitalism in general and monopoly capitalism (i.e. capitalism in the epoch of imperialism) in particular can only be grasped if it is understood as a political and economic world system. The political and economic relations in each country can never, from a Marxist point of view, be derived simply from internal factors. Imperialism does not constitute a set of national states and economies which are strung together. It is rather the case that the world economy and world politics are the decisive driving forces. They act as a melting pot for national factors, forming an independent totality raised above and imposed upon the national states. The uneven and combined development of world capitalism concurs with the given local peculiarities of a country and fuses with the specific national dynamic of the political and economic relations of that state.

 

From such a world view of capitalism follows that Marxists base themselves on a world view of the proletariat and, hence, a world view of the class struggle. This has profound consequences for the politics of the working class in general and in its democratic and anti-imperialist tactics in particular.

 

Such a view is in complete contradiction to the reformist theory of “socialism in one country” which was developed by the Stalinists and which they counterposed to the internationalist strategy developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and later defended by Trotsky’s Fourth International. This Stalinist theory declared that socialism, i.e. a prosperous society with a higher living standard for the population than capitalism can provide, could be built in a single country without the victory of the working class in other countries. From this followed that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, and hence the politics of the Communist International, had to serve no longer the goal to internationalize the revolution, but rather to help building “socialism” in Stalin’s USSR.

 

Trotsky summarized the contrast between the two theories in his book on the permanent revolution in the following words: It is precisely here that we come up against the two mutually exclusive standpoints: the international revolutionary theory of the permanent revolution and the national-reformist theory of socialism in one country. Not only backward China, but in general no country in the world can build socialism within its own national limits: the ‘highly-developed productive forces which have grown beyond national boundaries resist this, just as do those forces which are insufficiently developed for nationalization. The dictatorship of the proletariat in Britain, for example, will encounter difficulties and contradictions, different in character, it is true, but perhaps not slighter than those that will confront the dictatorship of the proletariat in China. Surmounting these contradictions is possible in both cases only by way of the international revolution. This standpoint leaves no room for the question of the ‘maturity’ or ‘immaturity’ of China for the socialist transformation. What remains indisputable here is that the backwardness of China makes the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship extremely difficult. But we repeat: History is not made to order, and the Chinese proletariat has no choice. [28]

 

As we have pointed out in the first chapter of this book, the current situation characterized by a major global counter-revolutionary offensive underlines particularly strongly the profound international nature of politics in modern capitalism. What does this mean for the revolutionary struggle?

 

First, as we have explained above, the struggle for socialism must also have an international character. This means that Marxists strongly oppose the Stalinist conception of “building socialism in one country”. Instead they strive to internationalize the class struggle both before as well as after the successful revolution in a single country. [29]

 

Secondly, a consistent internationalist understanding of the class struggle has also massive influence on the issues of program and party-building. “Socialism in one country” means to prioritize the class struggle in one’s own country and to deprioritise the class struggle in other countries. Consequently, it also means to prioritize the building of a party in one’s own country and to deprioritise the same in other countries. Furthermore, it usually goes also hand in hand with an ignorant or even social-chauvinist attitude towards national minorities and migrants in their own country. In short, “Socialism in one country” results in national-centeredness and national-reformism in the theoretical, programmatic and organizational field.

 

As a matter of fact, we see numerous organizations which are willing to act as revolutionaries but which are, unconsciously, infected with the ideas of “socialism in one country” since they put a strong priority on national work in contrast to international work. As a result they refuse to deal appropriately with issues of the international class struggle and the building of Revolutionary World Party.

 

Trotsky explained in 1928 in his critique of the Stalinist program that an international program is not only important for a world party but even for any national organization since national politics can not be understood without the international context: “In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e., of world economy and world politics under the hegemony of finance capital, not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of developments in its own country. This also holds entirely for the party that wields the state power within the boundaries of the U.S.S.R. On August 4, 1914, the death knell sounded for national programs for all time. The revolutionary party of the proletariat can base itself only upon an international program corresponding to the character of the present epoch, the epoch of the highest development and collapse of capitalism. An international communist program is in no case the sum total of national programs or an amalgam of their common features. The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa. Herein lies the basic and primary difference between communist internationalism and all varieties of national socialism.” [30]

 

For the same reason a revolutionary organization can not built on the national terrain alone. It must be built simultaneously as an international organization. Trotsky replied to those revolutionaries who considered the building of an international organization as “premature” the following: “Your conception of internationalism appears to me erroneous. In the final analysis, you take the International as a sum of national sections or as a product of the mutual influence of national sections. This is, at least, a one-sided, undialectical and, therefore, wrong conception of the International. If the Communist Left throughout the world consisted of only five individuals, they would have nonetheless been obliged to build an international organization simultaneously with the building of one or more national organizations.

 

It is wrong to view a national organization as the foundation and the international as a roof. The interrelation here is of an entirely different type. Marx and Engels started the communist movement in 1847 with an international document and with the creation of an international organization. The same thing was repeated in the creation of the First International. The very same path was followed by the Zimmerwald Left in preparation for the Third International. Today this road is dictated far more imperiously than in the days of Marx. It is, of course, possible in the epoch of imperialism for a revolutionary proletarian tendency to arise in one or another country, but it cannot thrive and develop in one isolated country; on the very next day after its formation it must seek for or create international ties, an international platform, an international organization. Because a guarantee of the correctness of the national policy can be found only along this road. A tendency which remains shut-in nationally over a stretch of years, condemns itself irrevocably to degeneration.

 

You refuse to answer the question as to the character of your differences with the International Opposition on the grounds that an international principled document is lacking. I consider such an approach to the question as purely formal, lifeless, not political and not revolutionary. A platform or program is something that comes as a result of extensive experiences from joint activities on the basis of a certain number of common ideas and methods. Your 1925 platform did not come into being on the very first day of your existence as a faction. The Russian Opposition created a platform in the fifth year of its struggle; and although this platform appeared two and a half years after yours did, it has also become outdated in many respects.” [31]

 

In summary, capitalism and imperialism exist and can only exist as a world system. The struggle against it must take the road of the international class struggle and its must aim for the creation of a socialist world economy and a worldwide federation of workers and peasant republics. Such a struggle requires a world party, i.e. an international organization and not national-isolated groups.

 



[1] Leon Trotsky: Once Again, Whither France? Part I (1935), Monad Press, New Your 1979, pp. 70-71, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch01.htm; see also Friedrich Engels: Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, 29 November 1886, in: MECW Vol. 47, p. 532

[2] RCIT: A Revolutionary Action Program to fight COVID-19! Workers and Oppressed: Don’t trust the State of the Rich and Powerful! Trust only Yourselves! April 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/health-program-covid19

[3] V.I. Lenin: Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov) (1916); in: LCW 23, p. 22 resp. p. 24 (Emphasis in the Original)

[4] Dr. Hendrik Streeck: Preliminary result and conclusions of the COVID-19 case cluster study (Gangelt Municipality), 9 April 2020. The study can be downloaded in German and English language at this link: https://www.land.nrw/de/pressemitteilung/uebergabe-erster-zwischenergebnisse-des-forschungsprojekts-covid-19-case-cluster-0; see also KURIER: Coronavirus: 14 Prozent der Bewohner der deutschen Stadt Gangelt sind immune, 9 April 2020, https://kurier.at/wissen/gesundheit/coronavirus-14-prozent-der-bewohner-der-deutschen-stadt-gangelt-sind-immun/400808312 

[5] Robert Roos: CDC estimate of global H1N1 pandemic deaths: 284,000, 27 June 2012, https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2012/06/cdc-estimate-global-h1n1-pandemic-deaths-284000

[6] V. I. Lenin: Revolutionary Marxists at the International Socialist Conference, September 5- 8, 1915, in: LCW 21, p. 391

[7] V. I. Lenin and G. Zinoviev: Socialism and War. The Attitude of the R.S.D.L.P. toward the War (1915); in: LCW 21, p. 313

[8] AFP : Dozens detained as rioting hits locked-down Brussels, 12 April 2020, https://www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/dozens-detained-as-rioting-hits-locked-down-brussels

[9] Nikolai Bukharin: The Politics and Economics of the Transition Period (1920); Edited with an Introduction by Kenneth J. Tarbuck, Routledge, New York 1979, pp. 83-84

[10] Karl Marx: Drafts of The Civil War in France, in: MECW, Vol. 24, p. 486

[11] Thesen über die sozialistische Revolution und die Aufgaben des Proletariats während seiner Diktatur in Rußland (1918), in: Angelica Balabanoff: Die Zimmerwalder Bewegung 1914-1919 (1928), Frankfurt 1969, p. 152 (our translation). Judging by its style, we believe that these Theses have been drafted most likely by Bukharin.

[12] V. I. Lenin: The State and Revolution. The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution; in: CW Vol. 25, p. 407

[13] Nikolai Bukharin and Evgenji Preobrashensky: A. B. C. of Communism, Vol. I, The Marxian Educational Society, Detroit 1921, p. 124

[14] Nikolai Bukharin: Imperialism and World Economy (1915), Martin Lawrence Limited, London,  p. 124

[15] RCIT: Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation (2016), p. 12, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/

[16] Michael Pröbsting: The Struggle for Democracy in the Imperialist Countries Today, August 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/democracy-vs-imperialism/

[17] V. I. Lenin: A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism (1916), in: LCW 23, p. 74

[18] V.I. Lenin: Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov) (1916); in: LCW 23, pp. 24-25

[19] V.I. Lenin: The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1916); in: LCW 22, p. 145

[20] Leon Trotsky: Another Letter to Albert Treint (1931), Trotsky Writings 1930-31, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, p. 319

[21] Leon Trotsky: The Permanent Revolution (1929), Pathfinder Press, New York 1969, p. 297

[22] Leon Trotsky: The Permanent Revolution (1929), p. 277

[23] Leon Trotsky: The Permanent Revolution (1929), p. 297

[24] We have dealt in more detail with the theory of Uneven and Combined Development in Michael Pröbsting: Capitalism Today and the Law of Uneven Development: The Marxist Tradition and its Application in the Present Historic Period, in: Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, Volume 44, Issue 4, (2016), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03017605.2016.1236483

[25] Leon Trotsky: A Letter to Albert Treint (1931), Trotsky Writings 1930-31, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, p. 314

[26] Leon Trotsky: Problems of the Italian Revolution (1930); in Trotsky Writings 1930, p.223

[27] Leon Trotsky: The Negro Question in America (1933); in: Leon Trotsky: On Black Nationalism and Self-Determination, Merit Publishers, New York 1967, p. 25.

[28] Leon Trotsky: The Permanent Revolution (1929), Pathfinder Press, New York 1969, p. 255

[29] For more on this see Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry (in particular chapter XIII and XIV).

[30] Leon Trotsky: The Third International After Lenin (1928), Pathfinder Press, New York 1970, p.4

[31] Leon Trotsky: To the Editorial Board of Prometeo (1930); in: Writings 1930, pp. 285-286