What sort of Fifth International do we need?

By Michael Pröbsting (Spring 2010)

When Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez called for the formation of the "Fifth Socialist International", the League for the Fifth International (LFI) immediately responded positively to this call. The LFI is an international organisation of revolutionary socialists - pledged from its foundation to the building of a new revolutionary International as a successor to the previous four Internationals.

From 1999 onwards, the LFI and the youth movement Revolution were active in the summit sieges, international days of actions and the world and continental social forums, what came to be known as the anticapitalist movement.

From the beginning we argued that the amorphous, mass “civil society” movement had to become, firstly, a movement with the working class as its leading force. Secondly, it had to become openly and unashamedly political. Thirdly, it had to give birth to a worldwide organisation of Parties, an International. Thus, as early as April 2003, we issued a call for the Fifth International.

We made this call to the hundreds of thousands who assembled in the European and World Social Forums (Paris 2003, Mumbai 2004, London 2004, Porto Alegre 2005, and Athens 2006). We issued this call to the trade unions and anti-capitalist initiatives, to the working class parties that actually took to the streets against neo-liberalism, capital and war. We argued for forming the new International not in some far distant future but in the months and years immediately ahead, when it was needed to coordinate the fightback against neoliberalism and imperialist war.

In Porto Alegre, in 2005, and in Caracas in 2007, Hugo Chávez correctly pointed out that the anticapitalist movement had to drop its opposition to politics and its naïve belief that it was possible to “change the world without taking power.” He called on the movement to transform itself into one actively striving to take power.

On this he was right, even if we disagree over what the power of the working masses is and how to achieve it.

Once again, Hugo Chávez is right: it is high time to found a Fifth International.

Humanity stands at a crossroads. Capitalism is a system in decline that offers no future to billions. Its blind drive for profit leads inevitably to deep recessions, spreading poverty, famine, increasing rivalry between Great Powers and wars. If it continues as the basis of production then catastrophic climate change will endanger the survival of a large part of humanity.

Thus Hugo Chávez's statement that we will either build socialism in the 21st century or there will be no 22nd century is the plain truth.

Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, have heard Chávez’ calls and we hope will send representatives to Caracas to discuss them and decide on a course of action and then take that action.

If socialism, anticapitalism and revolution are to be more than militant slogans they have to become objectives within an overall strategy. How will we achieve socialism? It will not drop from the skies. The capitalist ruling classes will not passively accept their loss of power because of defeat in an election. The great powers like the United States, the European Union, Japan, Russia or China, will resist this by all the means at their disposal. So too will the ruling classes in the so-called Third World.

We can therefore only build a socialist world if we first destroy the state power of the capitalist class in every country by the workers and all the oppressed and exploited people taking this power into their own hands. This revolution is not simply the passing of state power, unchanged in its form, from one president or one party of professional politicians to another. Only if the workers and the poor govern themselves through a state of democratic workers’, peasants’ and popular councils, without bosses or bureaucrats, can we build socialism.

Overcoming capitalism and building socialism around the world is not something that will happen spontaneously without a plan. To achieve this historic transformation we need a programme, a strategy and a worldwide party to lead this struggle. All attempts over the past century and a half to take power and build a socialist society have failed or foundered because we did not have such a programme and world party. Twice in the nineteenth century, and twice again in the twentieth, such parties and programmes were founded; the four proletarian Internationals, and the programmes that were developed for them by Marx and Engels, by Lenin and Trotsky. But, for over half a century, there has been no effective revolutionary international party - no International worthy of the name.

This is why the League for the Fifth International, as our name suggests, has argued for seven years that the building of a Fifth International is a burning necessity. The time is ripe to lay the foundations of the Fifth International NOW!



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